For those who are not yet converted, Jonty Tiplady makes most ‘innovative’ poetry look tired, he is already establishing a new kind of arena that does the playful and the profound in equal measure and provides a quite scary coda to these tumultuous times. He’s foolishly agreed to answer questions on a piecemeal, step-by-step basis.
Why do poetry- what is it that attracts you both as a reader and a poet?
Here we go, on the fly, 03 February 2012: first of all, thanks for asking. Thank you for the question, I mean. It’s of course a good one. I’ll try to answer with some things I perhaps haven’t quite said or thought before, since otherwise why answer? I like your blog, by the way. It seems important that it exists. Thank you for it too. Why do poetry: I am not sure, first of all, I ever do. My first perhaps obscure instinct is to say poetry is not something I do, it’s something I try, for quite precise reasons, to undo. I have been writing poetry since 2007. Pretty much the first poems I wrote were published in Zam Bonk Dip, by Barque Press, in 2008. Things happened quickly. My name suddenly changed, or my ‘author’s name’ changed, from Jonathan to Jonty. Jonty is a sort of cartoon Viking nickname I’ve had from age zero. When I lived in Paris, nobody would call me Jonty. I was not gentil, I could not be for them (‘tu n’est pas gentil’). Perhaps when I write, then, it has something to do with a sort of fire I feel myself catch through gentleness. Being worthy of one’s name. Poetry is a making, a producing (poesis). But almost nothing attracts me as a reader of poetry except a desire shown to somehow gently ferociously unmake things, unproduce them: how to undo, deconjure, graze, grace, heartfreak, headbang, make impossibly pop. I feel more khoratic and motherly towards poetry than fatherly, and perhaps that has to do with names. I do believe in the magic of names, and that a lot of writers and poets write through or against their names. Amy De’Ath has just done a typically wonderful reading online of a poem called ‘The Undersong’ I wrote a few days ago. That happened for various reasons, but one was that I felt the words needed to belong to the other, that they had to be handed over. I don’t really listen to pop music now, not much anyway, it’s as if I can’t cathect in that direction anymore (same with football), but I used to a lot, and I’ve been thinking a bit about that Stone Roses song, ‘Don’t Stop’, which actually goes backwards. There is a ‘step backwards’ in the very first line of Zam Bonk Dip. I feel I had in mind a sort of beautiful reversal, what early Prynne almost calls a last most beautiful return, an unproducing, an undoing, a sort of peeling back which is impossible, and in which poetry might look as if it is becoming more effusive than ever (like now) but is actually as if singing in itself ripped to the outside of no longer needing to do. I imagine that poetry has always been that more than ever, and that nothing has changed, but also that everything has changed, and that what was always more than ever is now more than ever more than ever. I mean, we’ve run out space, and that changes everything, even poetry. If I am attracted to poetry still, it’s as a form of confrontational beauty or affirmation, needed, not needed now, because we no longer live in endless time, with endless resources. Take my poem, burn it, put it in your heart, but don’t buy it or read it, is that the effect I want? After the initial prosodic run on the fall of wall street in ‘The Undersong’, which is extended in other versions, my effort was pretty much to interrupt myself, like sticking smiley stickers all over a beautiful elephant. There is no more time to just want to go to the wind farm, we have to actually go there, even if we can’t. In fact, and still on the fly, unedited, to what extent should poetry now be a form of total ecological critique and nothing else, one that makes eco-poetics look like micro-marbles on the burning hull of a volcano? Should poetry be something like what Nicholas Royle would perhaps call a total veer? I’m influenced a lot by Nick Royle, his new book Veering, in some ways more than most poets. He’s one of my favourite poets in fact, and he doesn’t yet write ‘poetry’, as far as I can tell. I ask myself if poetry should not do or be a total critique of poems, and other poets. What would that look like? Is it socially bearable? Should it be? When? Do you know, John? The first premise leading nowhere seems to be: ‘capitalism is the problem’ — unless capital itself has been listened to, and poetry alone perhaps can’t do that. I am going fast here, but a lot of this is in the first part of OK KOSMOS, advertisement, avertissement, just now published on the truly beautiful The Claudius App 2. I am thinking at the moment a lot about how poets seem always to be plugged into something: either it’s a highly evolved caste-like digitalised form of Prynne-ism, for example, or a sort of hybrid zombie form of post-deconstruction; but really of course it’s all that and more, or could be. Why be plugged into just one current? Isn’t that an effacement of the state of the world anyway? Isn’t that just a career safe-guard, the sort of thing that makes everyone want to efface the state of the world, and just get a career and forget all about it anyway? Black out into dentistry, Marianne Morris says somewhere. If I don’t quite do poetry, it’s because I want to stay committed to this moment just before, a sort of zero-dimensional non-poetry I can’t know about, before I get fully plugged in to any one set of social facts and figures, which always happens anyway, but not always like this. This is perhaps what I’m starting to mean, in OK KOSMOS, by the ‘khorasatiric’. I want to stutter like a fractal miracle in language: ultimate trying. Definition by negation is not enough. Will this do to start?