Sunday, 30 December 2012

Dubious Lists

Though I sometimes indulge in them - see below - I’m not a huge fan of end-of-year lists. Some things take longer to sink in and their significance understood than others. I don't just mean the appreciation of volumes of poetry or films or music, but also events in one’s life, writing or otherwise. It’s not always possible to readily ascribe value or meaning to what has been experienced.

More to the point, turns of years can operate as welcome breathers and a chance to step back and see the wood instead of constantly just individual trees. Flitting from task to task and from project to project can have the effect of relegating to the backs of our minds what we really are doing it all for. What this writing business is all about.

One or two potent disappointments notwithstanding, 2012 was good to me. It's seen a rise in appreciation of what I do; there was a new book, reception of which has been positive; I did many readings and performances, and took part in discussions, projects, festivals and so on - more so than ever before. I'm thankful to everyone responsible for all that: editors, curators, reviewers, journalists, collaborators - and most of all audience and readers.

All these things, however, cumulatively amounting to a small shift in standing and recognition, seem to also have effected in me a subtle shift in priorities, which I find both questionable and paradoxical.

Despite an assumption that artists and poets operate within an alternative environment that rejects the pressures of a conventional race, a race is in fact a significant part of what we are engaging in - born out in the jostling for awards or grants or reading slots or publication, and further exacerbated by everyone's growing social media presence and often aggressive self-profiling. And no, I'm not lamenting some kind of bygone 'simpler' time. These forces are there to be taken on, negotiated or ignored, and the tools attached to them used by each artist as s/he sees fit.

At times this past year I got swept up into an anxiety over the promotional aspect of what we do. It’s therefore now a matter of finding a new balance between the creative and the administrative, between the making of work and efforts towards the showing of it. And this tops another dubious list: that of my new year's resolutions.

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This year, I have mostly been enjoying (in no particular order):

Modern and Normal (Karen Solie); A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (David Foster Wallace); London's Overthrow (China Miéville); Mustard Tart as Lemon (Ira Lightman); The Savage Detectives and Antwerp (Roberto Bolaño); One Columbus Leap (Anamaría Crowe Serrano); Eunoia (Christian Bök); Homeland - Season 1 (Showtime); Fresh Meat (Channel 4); Funny Games (Michael Haneke); 81 Austerities (Sam Riviere); Selected Poems (Frank O'Hara); Congratulations (MGMT); 'Punk Prayer' (Pussy Riot); 'Paris: A Poem' (Hope Mirrlees); The Something Rain (Tindersticks); Djangology (Django Reinhardt); Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap (Ice-T); Just Kids (Patti Smith).

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