I went to the T S Eliot lecture given by George Szirtes today. Having been to Don Paterson’s lecture last year, it was interesting for me that Szirtes decided to pick out some of the things Paterson had said and disagree with them.
In all such disagreements between poets, the terrible temptation is to think that one of them must be right. Even worse, that the other must therefore be wrong, and that it’s necessary to decide which is which. But they both write fine poems, so they must both be right. Or rather: Paterson has come to a way of thinking about poetry which he finds fruitful; Szirtes has come to another way which he finds productive. Not only are neither of them ‘right’, any more than Wordsworth or Hopkins were right, but there is no one right answer at this level of debate.
That’s not to say there are no universally applicable truths about poetry, just that they are rather limited in scope.
The Paterson lecture can be found here, for the moment at least. The Szirtes one will apparently be put on the web tomorrow. I’ll post a link to it then.