my second, if you can't use that, is:

prowar blogger Oliver Kamm has written: 'Poetry is a medium, not an instrument, of ideas. If your interest in poetry is the cogency of the ideas, then you might as well be reading prose.' what I've read of Oxford students' 'poetry' has been mostly prose, and at that uncogent.*

my third, if you can't use that, is:

the writing of good poems is difficult, and few succeed. the best we should expect of undergraduates — unless rara avises like Auden — are okayish failures. not enough of the poems (if they are that) I read by students at Oxford are okayish, because they seem illusioned or unambitious in their senses of what poems are. in language and metaphor, where I would welcome eventfulness, there is enervation; for plot there is anecdote (a women gazes at her delicate hands, forgetting to feed birds. We forget her); in technique there is a worn intimacy with prose, its distinction from which poetry should boast and exploit; for thought there is wool, a jitney Larkinism which conjures consolation out of sunlight. yes, without sunlight the earth would be more matter in a universe neither callous nor loving but dead. on top of that it looks pretty when it floods low through clouds. we only need poets to say this if they can say it so the beauty of saying is like the beauty of seeing, or takes us there. but poems need also to say that sunlight gives you cancer, and in time will destroy the everything it gave us. Geoffrey Hill at a reading last week condemned later generations' poetry in cruder terms than you could hope. for him it was 'condescending crap'. he is a genius so we allow him this; I am not, and I don't want to recommend the same blanket derision. our Oxford poets are capable of the arresting line or two, I accept ('We do not know the grief of what we do / We giddy things. Briefly. In our storm's eye / Of selfishness. In our absolute calm.'). of whole poems I have read nothing except by friends I could call a success. my advice is to write as if you would be broken if you wrote a single false-bottomed line. practise and trash all the duds, the halfways, with less clemency than a sniper. and — most important — read Geoffrey Hill.

*I do not exclude myself from this charge.

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