Louis Esterhuizen. Hoekom Alice Oswald onttrek het van die TS Eliot-kortlys

Pas is die kortlys vir vanjaar se gesogte T.S. Eliot-prys vir poësie bekend gemaak, of twee kandidate, Alice Oswald en John Kinsella, het hul daarvan onttrek. In wese baseer hulle hul beswaar op die feit dat Brittanje se Kunsteraad vroeër vanjaar bekend gemaak het dat hulle hul subsidie aan die Poetry Book Society (PBS) gaan opskort. Die PBS, wat verantwoordelik is vir onder andere die T.S. Eliot-prys vir poësie, het toe in April vanjaar bekend gemaak dat dié prys ten bedrae van £15,000 voortaan deur die bekende skansfonds, Aurum Funds, geborg gaan word; ‘n besluit waarteen meer as 100 digters by monde van ‘n petisie beswaar gemaak het.

Alice Oswald, wat nié bogenoemde petisie onderteken het nie, het egter kort na die bekendmaking van die kortlys haar ongemaklikheid teenoor The Guardian se beriggewer laat blyk: “I’m uncomfortable about the fact that Aurum Funds, an investment company which exclusively manages funds of hedge funds, is sponsoring the administration of the Eliot Prize; I think poetry should be questioning not endorsing such institutions and for that reason I’m withdrawing from the Eliot shortlist.”

Vroeër vandeesweek het sy selfs verder gegaan en met ‘n volledige opgaaf van redes haar besluit op The Guardian se webtuiste uiteengesit. Haar stilswye vroeër vanjaar ten tye van die petisie, het sy soos volg gemotiveer: “I thought perhaps poetry should be suffering its setbacks quietly. I also thought that poetry needed more funding through schools and libraries and less funding through prizes. I don’t know whether this decision was the right one, but since then I’ve been asking myself what role poetry plays in society, whether it has any right to absorb the taxes of people who might not read it – whether, in fact, poetry is a luxury or a necessity.”

Haar beswaar teen die PBS se assosiasie met Aurum Funds, stel sy soos volg: “Hedge funds are not obliged to be transparent, so there is little one can find out about their practices. Aurum has an office in Bermuda, which happens to be a tax haven, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they pay less tax than they should. It doesn’t, according to its website, have an ethical policy. Desmond Clarke, vice-chairman of the PBS, assures us it is a respectable company that supports Oxford University; but Oxford University invests a significant amount of money in Lockheed Martin, who have been linked to the manufacture of cluster bombs, which some people might think is not respectable. Aurum also supports the West Yorkshire Pension Fund, whose chairman of trustees says that trustees would be failing in their duties if they allowed ethical issues to cloud their investment decisions.”

Nou ja, toe. Dit is egter Oswald se ewewigtige slotopmerking wat my in die besonder getref het: “I don’t suggest that anyone else should agree with me. I hope my fellow poets will have different opinions and not be afraid to express them. And I deeply regret any difficulties I’ve caused for the PBS, which has always worked tirelessly for poetry and its readers. But on this occasion, all I can do is trust my own repining – because that is my job, and that is what I’ve once or twice been paid to do by public taxes.”

Ten slotte haak ek ook haar siening oor die ‘groter taak” van die digkuns hierby aan: “I think it’s often assumed that the role of poetry is to comfort, but for me, poetry is the great unsettler. It questions the established order of the mind. It is radical, by which I don’t mean that it is either leftwing or rightwing, but that it works at the roots of thinking. It goes lower than rhetoric, lower than conversation, lower than logic, right down to the very faint honest voice at the bottom of the skull.”

Ter wille van volledigheid: die res van die kortlys bestaan uit John Burnside, Carol Ann Duffy, Leontia Flynn, David Harsent, Esther Morgan, Daljit Nagra, Sean O’Brien (my gunsteling!) en Bernard O’Donoghue. Die wenner word op 16 Januarie 2012 aangekondig.

 

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