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Marianne Morris' Modernism in Tutu Muse: prophylactic poetry for the last generation

Marianne Morris' Modernism in Tutu Muse: prophylactic poetry for the last generation

Critchley, Emily (2011) Marianne Morris' Modernism in Tutu Muse: prophylactic poetry for the last generation. In: Legacies of Modernism: The State of British Poetry Today, 9-11 June, 2011, Institut Charles V, Université Paris-Diderot, Paris. (Unpublished)

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Written & set in (pre-crash) London in 2007 in that hubristic world capital of ‘[in]ethical consumption’[1] & trade – i.e., methods of exchange that we now know to be good money after bad ‘dead frogs’[2] whose skin was toxic, not simply dead & bad – & unembarrassed consumer greed, Tutu Muse peers through London’s ‘collective skin’[3] & shows us just how much that city’s post-modernist espousal of surface over depth, spectacle over substance, is missing. (The skin motif that pervades the collection is apt; it is very much the ‘smeared glass’[4] of London’s superficial epidermis that TM reels from in disgust, vs. the real organs that everywhere pump & spew, gorge & bleed.)

If the ‘characteristically modernist reading experience is’, to quote Peter Barry (writing on Allen Fisher’s Place) ‘a reciprocal process […] in which we read the sources in the light of the poem and the poem in the light of the sources’,[5] & if modernist poems – take Eliot’s The Waste Land and Fisher’s Place as two nicely London-based examples – are built out of vertical echoes & references, like archeological digs back through history – Tutu Muse’s quoted material is all horizontal & surface & that, I believe Morris is positing, is the problem with ‘culture’ today, for, ‘we are not all made in the absence of depth’[6].

Tutu Muse holds a mirror up to a dystopic present in which Lyotard’s call that all knowledge be digitalizable has been realised, & upends Baudrillard’s refutation of Debord’s claim that we live in ‘the society of spectacle,’ by pointing out the headlines & deadlines that engulf contemporary existence in this city, with its obsession for commercialized surfaces & ‘cash experience[s]’[7] – share prices, PR, advertising, fashion, ‘added value’[8] – its lack of concern for ‘injustice on a world scale’,[9] let alone any particular individual, or the wrenched gap between language & ‘truth’ that pervades the collection.

The place of/for poetry (or any other ‘authentic’ experience) in the face of the very ‘commercialization of language’[10] is a question that’s put desperately to many of the poems by their own titles – we are promised rhythms & haiku, rhymes & odes – but these never appear, as if to underline the gap between form & content. I hope, in my paper, to provide a few answers to this and many of the other pertinent contemporary questions, formal, political, ethical & philosophical, asked of itself & its readers by this collection.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Legacies, Modernism, conference, Paris, Marianne Morris, Tutu Muse, British poetry today, poetics
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Humanities & Social Sciences
School of Humanities & Social Sciences > Department of Communications & Creative Arts
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Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:14

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