Or, well, actually, not really.
The back page of today’s TLS contains a blast at the CLR by that column’s author, J.C. What’s his charge? Well, it’s not so easy to say, because his piece consists mainly in repetition of his earlier jibes, a bit more out-of-context quotation, and some poorly-turned sentences about “common foundations” and other such oddities. The gist seems to be that he considers the poets collected in Infinite Difference and the CLR to be impenetrable, tout court. How much of the poetry there or here he has in fact read is unclear. Surely not John James in CLR1, surely not Peter Hughes in CLR2, surely not the Genovese poems in CLR3, to take just three examples of work that is of very immediate interest and, we think, beauty.
But no, it’s not really CLR vs TLS at all. We’ve been impressed with the range of poets covered in recent TLS issues, and rather regret the extension of our editorial’s criticism beyond J.C.’s sports page. Moreover, it seems that none other than the TLS’s editor has found at least some of CLR3 to be comprehensible—he blogged about us last week. This renders absurd J.C.’s statement that “No effort of imagination enables us to conjour a reader or an interlocutor who would welcome the self-alienation [of the poets in Infinite Difference and the CLR].”
Ought we to be more generous? Is there something to be said for J.C.’s stance? Of course, we would like each issue to enact various kinds of communication with its readers, maybe even to establish a “common foundation”, perhaps politically or philosophically, even aesthetically. (Poetry does still contain some aesthetic element, doesn’t it? to read J.C. you’d doubt it.) J.C. implies that the CLR is impossible to read, end of story. Doubtless there are eloquent defenses of plain-speaking poetry, and we would be interested to read them; doubtless too there is a strong case to be made against obscurity and difficulty in poetry. We would I’m sure end up disagreeing with it, but someone must be capable of the attempt. J.C., it would seem, just ain’t the man.
[UPDATE: there's an excellent take on J.C.'s outpouring, over at The Lyre.]