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The Shape of the Dance

Q: Where is poetry heading? Is poetry that homogeneous an activity?

MD: Substitute the word 'music' for 'poetry' in those two questions and you see the kind of assumptions made about poetry. Blues musicians on the South Side of Chicago, jazz pianists in London, fiddlers in West Clare, electro-acoustic composers in Rotterdam - we wouldn't dream of measuring them by the same standard, ranking them or telling them where we think 'music' is going. Poetry is not an homogeneous activity. And art has no direction. That is spatial illusion generated by early twentieth-century ideas about 'advancement' and 'progress'. If it's hard to see this now, it's because the illusion is augmented by the demands of consumerism. Our economy depends on the notion that things and ideas become obsolete and have to be replaced. Products of art and literature can be sold more effectively if they're marketed as 'new' so that newness acquires an all-pervasive fetish value [...]

interview excerpt from The Shape of the Dance: Essays, Interviews and Digressions,
a collection of prose by the late Michael Donaghy.

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