I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Birds of a Feather

Birds of a Feather

Bryce Evans
Poets and the Peacock Dinner, by Lucy McDiarmid, Oxford, 212 pp, £20.00, ISBN: 978-0198722786 Not too long after the opening of the gallery Tate Modern in 2000, I received a telephone call from my father informing me that he was about to visit the English capital. In response to his request for what to see and do, I enthusiastically encouraged him to visit this bold new space for international modern art on London’s Bankside. I still treasure the now dog-eared postcard I received a couple of weeks later. On the front of this piece of cardboard, four inches by five inches, was a crudely simple design: a plain blue circle on a plain white background. On the reverse was a tart message in my father’s handwriting. It read simply “At Tate Modern. This is about as good as it gets.” He’d visited, he’d seen it all, and he was thoroughly unimpressed; more than that, the majority of artworks (“if you could call them that”) had left him feeling insulted. “It’s like the story of the Emperor’s new clothes,” he later complained. “If you don’t like this stuff you can’t say so, because you’re considered stupid or uncultured, but the fact is most of it’s rubbish.” I was reminded of how acute generational divides in taste can be when reading Lucy McDiarmid’s account of how the Victorian poet Wilfrid Blunt privately reacted to a dinner and poetry reading thrown in his honour in 1914 by modern literary heavyweights W.B. Yeats and Ezra Pound and a group of their lesser peers. After the foppish festivities, during which a roast peacock was collectively devoured, seventy-four-year-old Blunt opened the present his guests had left him. It was an ornate box carved by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, a young avant-garde Parisian sculptor whom Pound had recently “discovered”. Made from a delicate mixture of Pentelican and Siennese marble, on one side of this box was a Futurist bas relief of a naked Egyptian woman. On the other side were the solemn words “Homage to W.S. Blunt”. The box contained eight poems by the younger generation of poets who had gathered to honour him at dinner, representing the ritual, humble transmission of culture from one generation to the next. Blunt, however, was not impressed. He disliked the female figure so much he had to turn the side with the bas relief to the wall. To him, Futurist art was…

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