Make It the Same: Poetry in the Age of Global Media, by Jacob Edmond

Martin Dyar applauds an analysis of the ways poetry has ingeniously adapted itself to cultural change

十月 10, 2019
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At first glance, the poetry that Jacob Edmond has written about in Make It the Same could appear to be precariously inclined towards abstruseness. And a significant number of the poets whose work is explored here have not been previously granted such thorough critical attention. But Edmond draws his subjects out brilliantly, revealing abundantly relatable dimensions of meaning and achievement within worlds of textual, visual and sonic density and, most importantly, worlds of poetic copying. With great detail, and in an impressive historical and biographical narrative mode, which serves to balance a broad theoretical range, Make It the Same catches and amplifies the nuances of individual poems, setting down supple paraphrases and interpretations based on oftentimes breathtaking levels of attunement to 20th-century and contemporary poetry.

The great Barbadian writer Kamau Braithwaite appears as a kind of progenitor behind the phenomenon of the role of deliberate copying and repetition among Edmond’s diverse but remarkably interconnected selection of case studies. The invention of transistor technology, and the freedom afforded by tape recording in particular, provided a means towards a fateful breakthrough for Braithwaite. Edmond writes powerfully of his channelling of the ingenuity and political courage of Jamaican pop music in the 1950s and 1960s – an ultimately successful effort to “link and fuse the DJ’s work on record player and radio directly with poetic text”.

The sense of Braithwaite’s enthusiasm is compelling in the light of his subsequent influence and the lastingness of his work. Recording himself and listening back in those early days, it seems, allowed him to relate more deeply to his own voice, as well as providing a sounding board for pre-empting the experiences of readers and audiences. The notionally stable poetic text evolved in the recorded, dubbed and remixed sphere, where the ideal of “Oral Resonance” infused mere typescript with forms of body and soul that attempt to express themselves in morphing and mirroring versions across time. “I seek an image, not a book,” said one of W.B. Yeats’s prophetic characters; Braithwaite, prophetically, sought a breathing book.

It is a leap from here to a triangulation of poetry with the inescapable interfaces and business agendas of Facebook and Google, but Edmond has discovered a pulsing lineage. The flexibility of his approach, his uncanny ability to extend the meanings of writing and reading, and his willingness to participate in the numerous digital frontier forms that poets in recent decades have sought to explore bear rich fruit. In addition to developing an illuminating vocabulary for the discussion of the ever-presence of the internet and the global digital economy, he accesses profoundly the often forgotten element of lyrical substance in postmodernist, avant-garde and multimedia work. He achieves this while speaking for the foothold that poetry has maintained since the advent of online life, even when it is combatively immersed in a new world that tends to disregard its claims to freedom, not to mention its continuity with the oldest impulses of literature itself. Only a supremely creative and passionate scholarly approach could have yielded such a timely vision.

Martin Dyar is a poet and associate writer fellow in poetry at the University of Limerick. He is writing a study of the poet Wallace Stevens and editing an anthology of poems on healthcare subjects. 


Make It the Same: Poetry in the Age of Global Media
By Jacob Edmond
Columbia University Press, 360pp, £50.00
ISBN 9780231190022
Published 30 July 2019

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