Impact agenda

I don’t think I’m ever going to make my peace with “performance poetry”, or indeed “the poetry of social engagement” as a special class of thing. Which is not to say that poets shouldn’t perform (G. Hill’s readings were often quite extraordinary performances) or that poetry shouldn’t be polemical and highly politicised (although it may well look askance at its own rhetoric while being so).

At some point I’m going to have to bite the bullet and explain properly why I think Kate Tempest represents a narrowing, rather than a widening, of what poetry can mean and/or be — the problem is not with her verse as such (which has its interesting and valuable features, and which I don’t want to write off in toto), but with the claims it makes for itself as especially timely, authentic, engaged, accessible and so on, all of which are predicated on an image of the speaking voice in society — performing, engaging, aiming to maximise “impact” — which is deeply embedded within the communicative norms of our contemporary mediasphere. By which I mean, the imperative to position yourself, to be identified with a certain “voice” addressed to a certain target audience, to put forward a coherent, commercially exploitable personality — and the assumption that this is the only thing it is possible or valid for anyone to be doing.