Writing poems about the First World War has been for some time a rite of passage for so many conservative and so-called ‘establishment’ poets. Yes, the centenary year is coming up, but just look at this lead page of Saturday’s Guardian review and you get the picture. Writing about important things is a way for these writers to guarantee their own importance. The late Seamus Heaney is a ring-in here acting as yet another good reference for the others. It’s almost a pity that time-travel isn’t possible. If it were maybe we could send this crew back to 1914.
Saturday, 12 October 2013
On Thursday evening at Free Range (a.k.a the Veg Box) in Canterbury, and on Friday morning on campus at the University of Kent, Basil and Martha King read their own work and talked about Black Mountain College. Both had attended the College in its last years (the early 1950s). Far more people know about Black Mountain now than did during its years of operation, and this is because of the activities of an astonishing number of its alumni. One sensed that many present day academicians would dearly love to recreate not a replica of the College so much as the educational ethos the institution represented (that seems in retrospect so much more important than the box-ticking modus operandi of our current beaneries). Both sessions also showed footage about the College and about Basil King and his own work. Both Nicole and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte’s documentary Mirage, and George Quasha’s short interview with King were valuable accounts. The sessions addressed important questions about pedagogy, about the position of women in the institution (Black Mountain, ahead of its time in so many areas was, alas, very much of its time here) and of what being an artist in any field involves.