“The new poets are products of a cult of personality, which demands from its heroes only that they be ‘honest’ and ‘accessible’”

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PN Review, a poetry publication based in the U.K., has a controversial essay by Rebecca Watts called The Cult of the Noble Amateur.  (PN Review 239, Volume 44 Number 3, January – February 2018.)

“The new poets are products of a cult of personality, which demands from its heroes only that they be ‘honest’ and ‘accessible,’ where honesty is defined as the constant expression of what one feels, and accessibility means the complete rejection of complexity, subtlety, eloquence and the aspiration to do anything well.”

The Guardian has a summation & overview of the responses:

Poetry world split over polemic attacking ‘amateur’ work by ‘young female poets’ – Alison Flood & Sian Cain – Guardian – 1/23/18

The essay in PN Review has split the poetry establishment, with some praising it as “stonking stuff” and “brilliant”. PN Review editor Michael Schmidt showed the Guardian some of the many supportive responses to Watts’s essay the journal had received. “Many of our readers seem relieved that literary criticism is at last being applied to writing that has, hitherto, been welcomed with open arms by journalists because it is easy to read, contains few challenges … to insist that it can stand on a sure footing beside poetry in what I have now too often seen described as ‘dusty old books’,” Schmidt said.

Other responses to Watts’s essay have been scathing; including from [Hollie] McNish herself, who hit back on her website on Monday: “A clever retort using high-register vocabulary is fine, but really it is simply saying that the author thinks I’m a shit poet and fucking stupid, too, and that Picador should not be publishing shite like mine. So why not just bite the bullet and say that.”

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