I’ve been working on a theory, it’s in it’s inital stages of thought. The theory is that really great creative movements, or individual works, are great because they explore, or come from tension. In writing this is certainly true in fiction (tell me if I’m wrong fiction writers) and I think it can be applied in other area as well. In my poem The Book of Antonyms, I tried to explore this be creating a poem about opposites, throwing some received wisdom about opposites out, and made sure that there were two opposites in every stanza. My idea was that the opposites as subject and within the poem would create a poem of tension.
If we look at creativity, we can see there have always been movements which have rocked the establishment, which have out-and-out decided that they are not going to do things the “acceptable” way. These movements have always shocked and inspired people, they have caught people up, and sometimes left them in their wake. Why are these movement so powerful? because they create tension within the creative world they inhabit. Some times they create tension within the larger world, and that is when something special starts. This tension is needed in all walks of life. Take politics, which I’m not entirely convinced isn’t an art form in itself. Imagine there being no Conservative party… That was nice, wasn’t it? But politics suddenly gets much less interesting too, and voter apathy sets in. This is why you need tension, tension brings life and vitality, it creates an energy of its own.
This is one of the reasons why I was so saddened to see, and hear about, the recent in-fighting in the Edinburgh poetry scene. Harry Giles has done a reasoned analysis of why this has happened, but if you want to read for yourself go here, here and here. Now just to make sure that people completely understand me I have no problem with people having their say or defending themselves. If you’re a writer and you can’t explain or defend your chosen style (not others style, your own), then my advice is to learn to do so. You need to know not only what you are doing, but why.
What Russell did, whether you agree with him or not, was identify a tension and express it, he tried to do so with humour. It’s public expression then created a tension in the Edinburgh poetry scene. That tension could have been used positively and responded to in a creative manner, but it wasn’t. If the response had been a creative one, then it could have ended up making everyone involved stronger, and strengthen the poetry scene in Edinburgh as well. At the moment all it has done is put me right off poets.
So my challenge is for those who feel strongly about this tension is to respond positively, in a creative way. Yes challenge, yes argue your point of view, but do so in what you do best, verse. I’ll publish it here if you do.