Welcome To Talking Verse

This blog is dedicated to discussion on poetry.

Poetry, on the European side of the Atlantic, has hardly progressed since the early 20th Century. Whilst in the USA poetry continues to evolve and present itself afresh.

Part of the reason for this is that the issue of poetry has been debated widely in the USA whereas in Britain, for example, you will be hard pressed to find anything that challenges the status quo of poetry.

There have been a few attempts: the Liverpool Beat poets made an short-lived impact during the early 1960s, but they could only offer a poor imitation of a style from the USA.

A handful of poets in the 20th century did make an impact. Basil Bunting and Tom Leonard shook up the established schools. But compared to the US the impact is small. Whilst other art forms have managed to progress over the years, poetry has stood still. Only the narrative has altered to keep abreast of the times.

Many people look to poetry to ‘tell’ them something; as if poetry were some form of journalism or propaganda. The laureateship of Carol Anne Duffy has only reinforced that view. But it is not simply a case of blaming the poets. Duffy is only responding to a demand that arises out of a society that pushes art for other ends, rather than simply art for the sake of it.

Today there is a wide awareness of poetry, the internet is weighted down with poetry sites that offer varying degrees of quality. Poetry is as valid as any other art form but only as long as it operates as an art form. Poets should not be seen as harbingers and the audience should look for meaning rather than rely on the poet or critic to provide answers.


This blog welcomes essays and book reviews about poetry. Please do not submit any poetry. If you wish to use a blog to submit poetry then I would recommend The Poets' Graves Workshop.

All submissions will be read and editing suggestions may be put to the author before being posted. Rejection by the author of any suggestion does not preclude it from being posted on the site.

Talking Verse follows no particular school of thought and has no other remit apart from the widest debate on matters of poetry.

Please submit here

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Carnegie Hall with Tin Walls by Fred Voss

One of the poets that I could never get my head around was Charles Bukowski. His stories are okay but I found his poetry to be dross. It seemed to say nothing except: `just how great am I?'

Yet so many people love him and so many great poets found their voice through him.

Fred Voss is such a poet. But Voss is not really parading his bones across the page. For him it is the working man who is the hero and, as such, he has to have his place in the poetic canon. In this sense Voss' lineage seems more Whitman than Bukowski.

There seems to be a line of development that suggests that the poems of 'Carnegie Hall With Tin Walls' are presented in the order that they were written. One gets a sense of the misanthrope from the first couple of poems. Such as 'One of the Joys of the Job' where one of the machinists shout: 'Yeah I'm an asshole!'. But this is not so. Voss paints his poems with crazed individuals and groups. But we are drawn into this world and that can make us feel very uncomfortable.

Poetry is not meant for this!

But Voss is a poet with a real heart for the craft. His poems sing to us, sometimes like those old blues songs. It's just that the tempo doesn't repeat itself with familiarity.

For Voss the celebration of the disenfranchised is necessary. The working man maybe macho; maybe racist; maybe a drunk. But he is also a human being who (as the title of this collection suggests) those with a foot on the higher rung are only there because the working man is where he is and what he is. For the working man, their entertainment, their diversions, cannot be foung in Carnegie Hall, their life is the tin walls of The Goodstone Aircraft Company.

And even when it is time to go home:

'and you put your foot down
on the sidewalk and get off
the bus now
is all
we have'

[Now is When Einstein Shatters the Universe with His Mind]

. . . that life is never over

This is one of the most beautiful collections of poetry I have encountered in a long while. Each poem is a song, not of sadness, necessarily, but of the triumph of facing a new day.