They’ve found some recordings of Philip Larkin in someone’s garage. This basically doubles Larkin’s entire recorded output: the guy didn’t like the sound of his own voice and there isn’t much of his own performing on file.
It’s quintessentially Modern: the idea that artists must perform to be ‘authentic’, that anything written down isn’t valid unless the creator had enough vocal or acting talent to drive it into the public consciousness himself. I’m not sure why this is: Homer just wrote down ancient orals; the Bible’s just an anthology of pre-Babylonian flood myths; even Shakespeare reused and repurposed lines hackneyed at the time. And as for Bob Dylan – well, turning folk songs into greenbacks is certainly a skill, but how exactly is it ‘authentic’? While of course, the really original artists – David Bowie, Andy Warhol, computer games programmers – are decried as playing to the gallery. That’s fucked. But anyway…
I’ve got about half a gig of ancient sound recordings by everyone from Yeats to Dylan Thomas and even some Alfred Lord Tennyson, and it’s weird just HOW differently people used to speak. (And how different it could have been. It was a knife-edge decision when the BBC got rolling as to whether announcers should have Northern or Southern accents; the Southern win made London forever ‘posh’, despite Manchester and Yorkshire being top dogs in the Industrial Age.) These people knew the score: where life’s going, how dark existence really is, why none of it matters a damn to the infinite blackness beyond Earth’s atmosphere. They KNEW.
Being a poet is far more authentic than being a musician: musicians are poets-lite. Rock stars and model slebs are only a pale imitation of what these guys get up to: Brendan Behan once coughed up his own liver and managed to swallow it back down. And since poets don’t have even the CHANCE of commercial success, their authenticity is greater.
ANYONE can enjoy a rock song; that’s the point. You get lost in a beat and there’s nothing too difficult about it. But poetry? To enjoy the written (or spoken) word, you’ve got to understand meter and pentameter, grok the rhythms and structures of non-drumbeat-accompanied English, understand nuance and metaphor and be prepared to put in some effort. The audience for new poetry in the UK today is estimated at approximately 4000 people.
The poet will always live among a tiny coterie of educated admirers, no mass appeal, no life outside that circle. Utterly authentic. Utterly contextual. How amazing.
In the words of Fight Club, “Self-improvement is just masturbation. Self-destruction – now THAT’S masculine.” Them’s fighting words.
I’m putting pen to paper tonight. (Poems should always be on paper.) I’ve written a bit before here at Warwick – one of which I’ve actually delivered to its subject – and, of course, it singularly failed to impress: the female person in question just isn’t soaked deeply enough in the culture of verse to absorb the passion I put into it. (Well, she’s become my friend, but that’s far from the result I was looking for.)
So here I go: I’m turning pro. The world’s first MBA poet. Watch out, world.