Sunday, 7 June 2009

TOXIC POETRY VERSES (SIC) TOXIC MEDIA

After reading Robert McCrum's analysis of the affair of the Oxford Poetry Professor in last week's Observer, I was baffled enough by his defense of Ruth Padel in the face of a 'toxic' media, and his suggestion the controversy might stop other poets from pursuing the job, that I wrote to the Review section, as follows:

Is it not somewhat disingenous of Robert McCrum to suggest Ruth Padel 'learnt a painful lesson about the potential toxicity of the metropolitan media' when, as it happens, it was she who initiated contact with that toxic media to frame a story suggesting her opponent in the Oxford election might not be appropriate for the job, pointed them in the direction of the 'evidence', and then assured the same toxic metropolitian media, with a straight face, that she had never done any such thing. As her intent seems more toxic than the media's, the words hoist and petard spring to mind. As for the difficulty of finding a new candidate, I suspect there will be no shortage. Might I suggest JH Prynne or Allen Fisher as two whose lectures might be somewhat more intriguing.

I could have pointed out that said disingenuity might be attributed by some to McCrum's being the former publisher at Faber & Faber, and Padel's being published, coincidentally, by Faber & Faber, as Faber have always seemed exceedingly good at manipulating the literary media, but I didn't. In any case, the letter was published today, under the title 'Poetic Justice' which is apt, although it had already been used by just about everyone else in media. What was printed today was, however, truncated:

Is it not somewhat disingenuous of Robert McCrum to suggest that Ruth Padel "learnt a painful lesson about the potential toxicity of the metropolitan media" ("Who dares to follow in Ruth's footsteps?", last week) when it was she who initiated contact with that toxic media to frame a story suggesting her opponent in the Oxford election may not be appropriate for the job. As for the difficulty of finding a new candidate for the Oxford professorship of poetry, I suspect there will be no shortage. Could I suggest JH Prynne or Allen Fisher as two whose lectures may be intriguing.
I don't mind their reducing the catalogue of Padel's own toxicity, although the facat they felt it necessary to do so does tend to reinforce my point. Or dropping the 'more' before intriguing, as if anyone could be more interesting than Padel! What really bothers me is why they changed 'might' to 'could' at the start of the final line. There might could be, as some old New Englanders might could say, some grammatical explanation for doing this, but it might/could require someone better-versed than I am to explain what it was.

3 comments :

maxine said...

Just guessing here, but as an editor for an international publication published in the UK ---
(1) was probably removed for legal reasons; (2) was probably done for house-style reasons by the sub. Might/may is a more general expression of the future than can/could which is more focused in origin and hence direction.

Michael Carlson said...

I always thought as verb forms might/could bore the same distinction as may/can, and in this context I am asking permission rather than wondering if I'm able...

on the other hand, might is a future based on conditions,whereas could is a future based on inclination so maybe it works.

El Nip said...

It is 'might'. Every time.

Old Englanders jerking an old New Englander's chain...