Thursday 352

Keith Douglas and poetry misread

Filed under: Poetry, Politics — Tags: — zundel @ am

from “How to Kill” (1943) by Keith Douglas (1920–1944)

Under the parabola of a ball,
a child turning into a man,
I looked into the air too long.

Douglas had a voice appropriate to his war and technique to use it.

Jon Glover brackets a review mostly about Keith Douglas with genuflections to ideology. He quotes Douglas’s peer Sidney Keyes:

Person and Politics: Commitment in the Forties” by Jon Glover in Poetry Nation 1974

In an insecure, unplanned society such as ours, no one has a right to complain that art is obscure or out of touch with the people; this state of affairs is inevitable, and will remain so, as long as the structure of society itself stands between him and his potential audience. While the mass of the people are excluded from full participation in the necessary activities of society, among which artistic appreciation is one of the most important, all Art for the People will be bad art, and nearly all good art will be obscure and exclusive. (Keyes, “The Artist in Society”, Minos of Crete, p 149)

Keyes accurately describes the result: bad art for the people, and the obscure. He mistakes the obscure for good. And he ignores that most good art existed before him, from times even less secure.

And Glover persistently slips on ideology and misreads Douglas.

Glover’s invocations of ideology seem silly from the distance of more than thirty years. But they do matter. We inherit the legacy of this criticism.

Did Marxist literary criticism license inaccessible art?

Simplify Me When I’m Dead” wrote Douglas.

Read the poems.


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