I’ve cheerfully read the manifestos without reading any of the poems. I daresay I could find some poems by the central New Sincerists if I just dug around the web for a bit, but it would seem a pity to dilute the purity of the manifesto-reading experience. From these manifestos (manifesti?) I have learnt that the New Sincerists write poems which are sincere. I don’t think I’ve ever written a poem which was intended to be insincere; so perhaps I have been a New Sincerist (or at least a Sincerist) all along, without even knowing it.
But I wonder if a lack of insincerity is enough. The word ‘sincerity’ leads me to expect poems which are earnest, heartfelt, and, if not confessional, at least personal. I don’t think I’ve written a poem in the last few years which was about me in any important way. Most of them are things like this. Does it even mean anything to say that this poem is or isn’t sincere?
The saints and rood screen
have been broken up and burnt,
the murals covered with limewash.
Only the stained-glass windows glow,
and the face of the transfigured Christ
has been scratched out
that the light might shine through clearer.
I guess I’m just trying to pin down what ‘sincerity’ means in poetry. The Romantics generally seem pretty sincere, except perhaps Byron. I’m pretty sure Milton was sincere; was Donne? Herrick? Are Shakespeare’s sonnets sincere? Is there any way of telling? Does it matter? What about Pope? Is The Dunciad more or less sincere than An Essay on Man?