Skip navigation

Notes on imp

Notes on imp

Smyth, Cherry (2010) Notes on imp. In: Poetry and Voice, a creative and critical conference, 25-27 June 2010, University of Chichester. (Unpublished)

Full text not available from this repository.


Just as Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay, ‘Notes on Camp’ nimbly tried to capture the decisive frivolity and blunt whimsicality of camp, I’d like to propose ‘Notes on Imp’. Like camp, which rests on innocence, revealing and despoiling it, the imp grafts a knowing mischievousness onto the serious matters of self-disclosure and vulnerability in contemporary poetry. While gay men, particularly, have developed camp as a strategy and style both in defence of, and to herald their sensibilities in a straight culture, so female poets, especially, use the tactics and tone of the imp as a shield and a vehicle to subvert the powerful inequality in male-female relations.
This paper would examine how the often-androgynous imp inhabits a netherworld that exists before or beyond gender distinctions. Gender remains overwhelmingly divisive for women: it divides them from the other, the better, as well as dividing them from their prepubescent, untrammelled self. I will demonstrate how the preternatural insights of the imp carry an intrinsic authority, slipping in and out of a third voice, neither male or female – or both – with the precociousness of a child who speaks with too much truth. Whether to avoid state censorship or propriety, poets like Nina Cassian, Wislawa Szymborska, Selima Hill and Dorothy Molloy, in an echo of earlier poets like Charlotte Mew and Stevie Smith, adopt a playful cynicism to observe the authoritative (male, adult) world askance.
I will argue that the imp addresses high culture and philosophical importance in an underhand fashion, offsetting gravity with levity, asserting a gleeful independence and irreverence. The imp speaks for the rule-breakers, the outsiders about the folly of trying to speak of, or for, or about. Yet, like the feathers added to a bird’s wing, the imp adds power and speed to the words’ flight.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: poetry, gender, voice, ventriloquism,
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Humanities & Social Sciences > Department of Communications & Creative Arts
School of Humanities & Social Sciences
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:09

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item