Poetry: Guest Poets | clivejames.com
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Guest Poets

Plato wanted poets kept out of his ideal Republic, where their verbal magic might disturb his iron rule of law. From the moment I realised that this website would have to be more than a personal archive, I started dreaming of Atlantis, which was the very place that Plato was determined no citizen of the Republic should dream of even for five minutes. If the lost city were to return, it would need poets, in the plural. One poet would not be enough. In this way I was brought to the idea of Guest Poets. It went without saying that they would be poets whose work impressed me. But there was an aim beyond the prestige that would undoubtedly accrue from asking them in. I wanted my lost city, when it rose into the air, to be a place of teaching as well as a pleasure garden. In my own mind the two things have always been connected anyway, but here was a chance to prove it for enquiring visitors from all over the world. It followed that the poets I invited in should be the authors of intelligible work. There would be no point asking students to examine the workings of a verbal mechanism with no detectable function. Poetry with at least one level of readily appreciable meaning is the kind of poetry I like anyway, but here the requirement would be crucial. The Guest Poets who have already arrived could scarcely be more different from each other, but they are united in speaking the single, universal language of highly charged meaning, and any obscurities result from an excess of clarity, not from the lack of it. So far the poets come mainly from Britain, Australia and America, although some of them had to come a long way even to get to those places. Eventually, I hope, there will be poets from all over the world. But already I can hope for readers from all over the world, and I am very glad to be able to offer a wider range of theme and accomplishment than I could possibly provide from my own work alone. "Look what I can do" is never a very convincing instruction. "Look what he can do, or she can do" is, on the other hand, the essence of teaching, and, for some of us, of pleasure too.