University Challenge

I enrolled at University for my English degree today. Being the natural pessimist I am, I thought something would go wrong right up until the last minute. But it didn't. And now here I am facing three years of study and a thirty thousand pound debt at the end of it. I couldn't be happier.

There is a conflict here, for a writer who has spent his writing life on the fringes of the small press (I was never fully accepted by the small or the large press, for whatever reason). The small press tends to think of itself as more dynamic than the "Academies". The universities are supposed to produce anaemic poetry by hopelessly unworldly, unhip writers published only because of their contacts and their credentials.

Well, in my experience it's not that different in the small press. Good poetry is good poetry wherever it comes from. And Charles Bukowski's theory that your writing is somehow improved by working dead-end gigs for no money, by living in fleabag rooms and walking in the rain with holes in your shoes, has failed utterly for me. Looking at the websites and the print mags of new poetry I'd say it has failed for most of the other poets too. 

I want a little comfort now. I want conversation with people who've read Pound and Dante as well as Kerouac and Buk. I'll probably end up being a stranger in both worlds, but that won't be an unfamiliar experience either, for a man who has drifted through his whole life like a ghost.

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