Sunday, 10 May 2015

Alan Jenkins on Ian Hamilton

This morning I found myself reading Alan Jenkin's introduction to Ian Hamilton's Collected Poems for the umpteenth time. Like always, I was drawn to a quote of Hamilton's justification for his poetic method:

...In certain moods, I used to crave expansiveness and bulk, and early on I had several shots at getting "more of the world" into my verse: more narrative, more satire, more intelligence, and so on. Each time, however, I would end up knowing for certain that I could have tackled the material more cogently in prose. Why push and strain...

Of course, this very much reflects my own experience as a poet.

Today, however, I was also drawn to a part of Jenkin's conclusions that hadn't hit home as much on previous occasions. It concerns Hamilton's influence on other poets and reads as follows:

...Now several decades have passed, it would be hard to exaggerate the extent to which his influence has waned...not one of these poets...shows much trace of Hamilton's influence in his own work, and I can't think of a single poet who does...

Jenkins was writing in 2009. At that time, I would have agreed with him (which is probably why this passage somewhat passed me by on earlier readings). Six years later, the panorama is changing.

Hamilton was a very divisive figure during his lifetime, but his verse has become hugely relevant to many poets who have emerged in the past few years. They aren't worried about the so-called Poetry Wars, etc, as his poetry is their focus. If you're not familiar with Hamilton's work, why not get hold of his Collected Poems and see what I mean for yourself?

1 comment:

  1. Dear Matthew

    Ian Hamilton was such a perfectionist that he actually wrote and published very few poems himself. I think that his huge influence on other poets (like Hugo Williams) was, generally speaking, rather negative.

    Best wishes from Simon R. Gladdish