Many congratulations to Douglas Dunn for winning the 2013 Queens medal for Poetry, in recognition of his lifetime contribution to literature.
I have previously mentioned his ‘Elegies’ in relation to other writing by James Reeves and Christopher Reid and I had planned to witter-on about Douglas Dunn via his ‘Selected Poems 1964 to 1983’ which I have shelved and bookmarked ready for re-reading and no doubt including ‘Elegies’ too. Latest title and others can be bought through this link.
I have been considering the worth of delving a little deeper when writing about the poetry/poets I have been reading or just unearthed. My basic feeling is that I should comment on what is before me and my likes and preferences of that book with only a little pointer about the poet’s life. This may encourage readers, including myself, to find more to read both of works by and material about that poet. I am not a critic, not really in the high literary and poetic manner, only as a reader. I do care about what I like and discover so perhaps I should look deeper into the poet and the work to understand my own interpretation of what I read. Understanding what the poet says is required emotionally and no doubt logically but do you need to dig deeply into the mechanics of comma versus semi-colon and metre and or rhythm?
You can tell from this that anything I learnt when young was discarded and forgotten long ago. I do believe you should read poetry. If you understand what is being said logically as well as emotionally then it is a first step. The next is to glimpse the life of the poet and try to get a grip on appreciating the forces that worked upon them through life and pushing through your own subconscious to understand the common ground you have with the writing.
Here is where it starts to hurt in that history, history of literature and language (real and poetic) all develop out of the previous years/periods/style that rise to the concious levels either of the literate and or the populace. And Life, let alone Art, Art of any sort, is always trying to emulate, improve and denigrate, shock and create anew. So the spectrum of poetry follows similar patterns and you have to choose where you sit and read, or write: on the fence-post, the fence itself or the spikes.
So, should I pretend I can be a critic for you, or rather myself as I am the one doing this for my own pleasure? Or maybe I think that wherever I sit and dribble out my thoughts on writers I will never be right? But then whatever I find, or believe, or say, will only be me with a sign-post saying where I have been and suggesting you have a look around. If you are taller, shorter, etc etc your view will always be different and if you understand what you read, to a degree, like it or not, you will always be right. Until you move on and the view changes.
But for some years now my view of Douglas Dunn’s poetry has not changed. He remains firmly on my shelf.