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Arduity:Clarifying difficult poetry.

(Recent additions- A much revised and extended Charles Olson intro / How Difficult is J H Prynne? - revised and extended / J H Prynne on Poetry- revised and extended / Allegory, the Dark Conceit. / John Bloomberg-Rissman's Second Notice / Reading Paul Celan / Reading Geoffrey Hill's Comus / Purdey Lord Kreiden and her poems / Geoffrey Hill's The Triumph of Love. / Geoffrey Hill on Poetry / Reading Geoffrey Hill/ John Matthias' Laundry Lists and Manifestoes / John Matthias Introduction)

Difficult poetry, why bother?

Incomprehensible, wilfully obscure, elitist, self-indulgent, self-regarding, hopeless, not 'proper' poetry. These are just some of the terms used to describe difficult verse and yet the best of this material is rich, complex and deadly serious. Bothering about difficult poetry means taking a little more time than usual to give attention to the complexities and allowing yourself to be changed (for the better) in the process.

I started the arduity project in 2010 because I'm a recent convert to this kind of material, having previously viewed it as chronically self-indulgent and restrictive, and I wanted to encourage others to try it out for themselves by writing about it in a way that is reasonably clear and helpful. This isn't intended to be either definitive or consistent but it does aim for a degree of personal honesty which I feel is important.

This is not to say that all poetry that is hard to grasp is good poetry, in fact much of this material is really quite dire because it tries too hard to be clever / erudite / profound and ends up not being worth the bother. However, the poets and poems on these pages have produced work that embodies the opposite tendency, motivated by the need to say challenging and sometimes contradictory things without losing the integrity of the message / theme and without patronising the reader.

Of course, some of our very best poets are primarily depicted as difficult or obscure rather than good. Discussion of the work of Geoffrey Hill or J H Prynne or Paul Celan will usually mention difficulty and/or obscurity in the first paragraph as if this is an altogether negative trait.

Experiments in reading

This is a new feature (July 2013) which attempts to provide a more immediate account of the reading experience together with readers' comments incorporated into the body of the text. The idea is, as ever, to promote a wider readership for this kind of stuff. I'm starting with:

The Anathemata by David Jones.

Night Office by Simon Jarvis

The Odes to TL61P by Keston Sutherland.

Difficult Poets.

We also have articles on poets who have a reputation for difficult work. These include Paul Celan, Geoffrey Hill, J H Prynne Simon Jarvis Keston Sutherland and David Jones, all of whom have produced work that demands and rewards attention from the reader.

From the other side of the Atlantic we have articles on Wallace Stevens, Charles Olson, John Matthias, and Geraldine Kim.

John Matthias' Trigons.

I'm working with John Matthias to produce an on line annotated full text of this remakable work, each section will be published as and when it's complete.

Bebrowed- the site blog

This contains over 300 posts on related subjects and provides more personal perspective on the poets featured here. Recent posts include:

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