Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tomas holds his lead

Despite a charge by Harold Pinter, the Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer is holding on to his lead in our 'Greatest Living Writer' poll. John Ashbery, Margaret Atwood, and Bob Dylan are making respectable showings, Jack Ross has lost his mojo, JK Rowling appears to have attracted some pity votes, and one hundred and four year old Edward Upward is helping Stephen King bring up the rear.

What is the secret of Tomas' success? How has this retired psychologist, who writes sparingly in a minor European language, managed to overtake and then hold off some of the most glittering names in world literature, not to mention Jack Ross, who has apparently been buying beers for Richard Taylor in return for a daily vote?

I made a couple of tentative suggestions in an earlier post, but I think that this appreciation of one of Transtromer's poems probably gets to the heart of the man's appeal. The author of the appreciation is not some academic or professional writer, but simply a sufferer of that wonderful state of evangelism that great works of literature can inflict on readers. And as for the turkey who complained that the Transtromer piece being discussed is 'quite simply, not a poem', presumably because it is written in prose, all I can say is get with the programme, comrade! Baudelaire was writing poems in prose one hundred and fifty years ago!


Blogger Richard said...

To be fair - Jack Ross could well be the greatest living poet (seriously he is one of NZ's best) (but he is too much of a "getta-abouter" and gets published too much) - but I am the greatest old bastard of a bloke poet -

Seriously (again) though - Jack has been writing some very interesting stuff - if one includes his prose works - to me those works AND his poems are part of his work or oeuvre (I don't like this prose poetry division)- for me his Giordano Bruno is kind of a poem and his latest brilliancy - the back to back book which was a first (Jack checkmated me - and everyone else - there - but I did the first unending sentence) - Transtromer is great but...well Jack is younger and a NZr, and, in terms of formal innovation, the more interesting poet (impossible to estimate or calculate ability or poeticalness or whatever) but Jack is a great poet in my book - although not all his books "grab me" - but once Giordano came out and The Imaginary Museum I knew he was kicking for sure - he had grasped the poetic Ghost by the throat ...

but ...ahem.... I have been voting for Ashbery (not all HIS books ("grab me" I mean) either!) as he sends me a stipend.

(He is getting too old to recall he was meant to stop paying me to keep quiet). I am - indeed - a bitter old Remittance Man...getting too old to remember when I have long since ceased to be entitled to my remittances...

11:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard Taylor - what a name!
Who is this guy?

the Big Rig Downunder

11:23 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any comments on this? I think it hits the nail on the head.

When (greyhounds) can no longer run fast they have reached the end of their useful existence. It is possible to keep them as pets, but the morality of such a decision is at least questionable. Retired they consume protein that could be more compassionately used to relieve famine in the developing world. It is a source of outrage to the citizens of poor nations: should canine appetites really take precedence over the survival of human children?

Of course many pet owners keep animals that have never served an economic purpose and never can. Childless couples regard such creatures as substitutes for offspring. Widows and widowers crave company: a loyal dog can provide it. Many families believe domestic animals make amiable and educational companions for children. Strict moral pragmatism would outlaw such practices.

Peter Stanley

11:53 am  
Blogger Richard said...


I am not sure of the relevance of your comment -but greyhounds consuming pet food will have no effect of whether any human lives -all countries - since civilisation developed - indeed all human societies - actually overproduce - there is no shortage of food anywhere in the world (exceptin small areas where there may be a conflict hapenning or something - here the solution is political and military etc) - there is a supply and distribution and who controls what problem(s) -it gets back to politics - on a larger level it is true that some individuals get obscenely high wages and use huge amounts of power for example but this is part of a more general political / human problem or complex. (ONE motivations for wars is the enormous overproduction of munitions etc)

Re pets - there is no reason to get rid of them - I lost a cat and found that when it got ill I was very fond of it and was greatly saddened when it died - humans need pets and so on (or they like to watch greyhound racing which is a valid entertainment) - but your feelings seem to be in the right place. And we need to feel and show compassion to animals and humans. Which seems to be what you are saying to some extent.

There are also no "hearts of the problems" or single solutions to anything in the world (such as poverty for example) - it is compound of economic, social, ethical, psycholgical, philospohical and political (and other areas) questions - and these many aspects interract.


10:27 pm  

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