Today, Hilary Clinton made headlines in Britain, by “expressing concern” about plans to cut spending here on military procurement. I mention this to underline how interconnected the US/UK relationship – “special” or not – still is, not just culturally, but military-industrially. Meanwhile, David Cameron and General Petraeus have been meeting over the botched rescue of a British citizen kidnapped by the Taliban, and maybe killed accidentally by an American rescuer, who may have thrown a hand grenade that killed her as she lay on the ground. Though there is a documented “Atlantic drift” in the poetry community, as much binds as releases the two former great powers, both watching the rise of China.
Poets in the 20th century in the Anglo-Saxon world tended to speak of a mid-Atlantic current, that saw the loan-lease of poetic talents, such as Auden and Eliot. Hugh Kenner, a Canadian, wrote about this, in A Sinking Island, and then there is Fishing By Obstinate Isles, let alone A Shrinking Island, Jed Edy’s title echoing Kenner’s.
I don’t think we can any longer speak of mid-Atlantic poets (Robert Lowell was one, at ease in London as Boston). I was tempted to call them Pan-Poets, or the New Jet Set (a little ungreen). I have therefore decided to call them Atlantic/Pacific poets – poets whose national identities are enwebbed in travel, education, and publication, in several nations at once, and therefore, in their cosmopolitan internationalism creatively scramble the tired old nationalist labels. In the process, they release the English-language poetic tradition since Modernism into its widest swing, the compass arm describing a very wide arc of styles and experiences, indeed. Other poets I have featured so far this week could have been included here, but this list includes a poet born in New Zealand, one born in Australia, one born in America who intelligently and creatively engage with the British and American poetic traditions, as well as ones closer (perhaps) to home – whatever that might mean.
Kathryn Maris, a New Yorker now based in London, was educated at Columbia University (BA) and Boston University (MA, Creative Writing). She is the author of The Book of Jobs (Four Way Books, 2006) and a second collection forthcoming with Seren in the United Kingdom. Her awards include a Pushcart Prize, an Academy of American Poets award, and fellowships from The Fine Arts Work Center and Yaddo. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry, Slate, The Harvard Review, and Poetry Review. She has written essays and book reviews for Time Out, American Poet, Poetry London and New Welsh Review. She teaches creative writing at Morley College and Kingston University. Her poems are anthologised in Oxford Poets 2010.
Call me Infidel, or just call me Tom.
Call me handsome, call me cold, call me bitter, call me cad
call me No-Better-Than-Judas-Iscariot
call me bachelor, call me saint, call me numb.
I was abused, I was married, I took pills, I was left,
I was in love, I was a liar, I was a drunk, I was in debt,
I wrote a book, I had some fame, then I was dead,
'til I was saved, I slept around, I was too young, I was bereft.
You are good, you are beautiful, you are kind, you forgive,
you are loving, you are smart, you're adored and you are brave.
There's no one else. It isn't you. I'm circumspect. I'm full of doubt.
It wouldn't work. We're not alike. I don't know what I want.
Call me weak, call me ingrate, call me 'once bitten, twice shy.'
Call me anything, but please don't say I make you want to die.