15 September 2010

‘Relocating the High Lyric Voice’ – a reading and discussion with Robin Blaser, John Kinsella, Denise Riley, Peter Blegvad and Iain Sinclair

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An extract from a conversation broadcast on ‘Night Waves’ (BBC Radio Three), 22 January 1997.

This item is posted here as a relic from my brief and rather breathless career as a one-lunged presenter on BBC Radio Three’s review programme “Night Waves”. The poet Robin Blaser, with whom I had studied two decades previously in Vancouver, visited London in January 1997.  He came over for a number of readings, and the radio producer Paul Quinn and I took advantage of the moment to record him reading his poem ‘As If By Chance’, and to interview him about the ongoing and, as we reckoned, all too familiar argument between advocates of opposed ‘modernist’ and ‘traditional’ (and also American and British) strands in twentieth century poetics. We then convened a discussion with John Kinsella, Denise Riley, Peter Blegvad, and Iain Sinclair. I had largely forgotten the whole episode, but  the core of the programme has since been made available by PennSound, a marvellous collection of recordings run by the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania.  It was a struggle to get anything like this on broadcast radio in 1997, and would be even harder now.  Robin Blaser’s remarks about the relations between ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture and the ‘condescension’ implicit in all too many reachings out for a manipulated and debased idea of the popular should be engraved over the BBC’s door.

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