I’m a crude existential malpractice


Every poet strikes his or her own balance between innocence and experience, and that balance is easily lost. If lost to experience, the poet gets lost along with it: to feline self-regard, to the sly messaging of the in-group. The danger to an English poet is probably greater than to an American counterpart. There the apparatus of public acclaim sits, spring-loaded and ready to descend upon the promising young talent. This inevitably alters the way the promising young talent thinks and feels and writes. Maybe it is preferable, when young, to be stranded amid philistines than dandled by old toadies.

The English poet James Fenton has survived the specter of his own immense promise. Every possible temptation, disguised as encouragement, has been thrown in his path: the burdensome epithet (“heir to Auden” or “major British poet of his generation”), the sexy hype of a new coterie (the so-called “Martian” school), and even a turn on the throne, as the Oxford professor of poetry.

more from NY Times here.