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New British Poetry by Don Paterson
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New British Poetry (2004)

by Don Paterson (Editor), Charles Simic (Editor)

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Paterson is his own worst enemy; his own illogic undermines the cred-
ibility of his claims. But what is most disturbing about this essay is not its
rhetorical failures, but the violence of its assault on all nonconformist prac-
tices, a violence which not only breaches critical decorum but also extin-
guishes the kind of expansive generosity which serious study of poetry should
have helped Paterson to acquire. In an interview with Julia Fiedorczuk in
Poland in September 2000, Paterson affirmed the value of criticism. But he
added: “If you criticize to reduce, and to dissect, or make things more ob-
scure than they really were by reading the things that simply aren’t there, to
project your own neuroses then no, I don’t think it is a noble project, I think
it’s a vile thing to do.” This essay is blistered by such projections. Paterson’s
not likely to explain why he took such an ill-conceived position, in a squalid
little tract which reads like it was written in a few toxic hours and never
edited (he doesn’t even correctly cite the title of his one named opponent,
the Oxford Anthology of Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry). His es-
say is useful as a demonstration of how conservativism operates in the arts according to the same principles as it does in the capitals: its lynch pins are
assimilation, veneration, and subordination; it is maintained by the con-
trolled flow of resources, false proclamations of vulnerabilities, and a dark
fixation with scapegoats. But rather than generating a provocative and rep-
resentative dialogue about how and why poets struggle for limited resources,
a dialogue in which British and American poets and readers of all persua-
sions might participate, Paterson has only succeeded in making himself look
petty and foolish.
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paterson, DonEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Simic, CharlesEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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