Saturday, 24 October 2015

Stupendous Cocky Turpitude: Prynne on Podcast

   Like many people, I don't find much time to read these days. I could bemoan the skittering atomistic banality-fest of post-historic consumerdom and our brains' doddering over-reliance on the mental prosthetics of cyber-gadgetry but then Horace was sighing alas that the fugacious years were slipping him by in 23BC. The amount of books on my 'Must Read' list (not to mention the perhaps even longer list of 'Must Re-Read'), however, seems to burgeon in exponential correlation to the dwindling of my reading-time - the resultant line-graph might bear some relation to the same chiasmus besetting contemporary poetry-volumes: never so many being published, never so few bought and read. We are stumbling towards a strange tipping-point in what passes for cultural production where almost everyone is "publishing" something - whether in the form of blog-posts, Instagram photo-feeds, self-published e-books, GarageBand "tracks" uploaded to SoundCloud - but no-one is paying much attention because they're too busy expressing the hell out of themselves. It's like a coked-up party where everyone is speaking at once, tipsily pleased with the sound of their own voice, and no-one is listening.
    Listening to podcasts on my smartphone  while driving is a makeshift expedient, if by no means an actual alternative to reading books. TLS Voices grabbed my attention the other day at the traffic-lights on Finchley Road with an unexpectedly apposite yoking of a non-mainstream poem with a contemporary news-story. Robert Potts' examination of Prynne's To Pollen in the light of the recent media furore over images of the drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi pointed up the continued incisiveness of the poem's invective, travestying from within a consciously doubling, slippery poetic discourse the linguistic duplicities and slippages that coverage of the two Gulf Wars was almost wholly composed of, laced with the kind of confused post-imperialist xenophobia which informs the rhetoric of many commentators on the recent migrant crisis .
    The silent redaction which transformed the word "immigrant" into "migrant" in permitted news-vocabulary pretty much overnight is a telling example of such semantic drift, although obviously in this case moving away from potentially negativising terminology. (The priggish undergraduate deconstructionist in me wants to signal the denied subjecthood hiding in the banned letters "im/I'm" and to bandy the phrase "interpellated by their elision" to denote the likes of Aylan Kurdi, immortalised now as a tiny dead body washed up on a beach.)

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