Friday, 19 March 2010

Bad Lord Byron

The immediate occasion of today's overcoming of inertia and self hood predicates on an attempt to say something about the literary love triangle of Lord Byron, Lady Caroline Lamb, and their mutual friend and publisher, John Murray, whose archive is the recent prized acquisition of this crusty but ambitious institution, and to which purchase I owe my presence here as Writer- in-Residence.


There's that word again. What is that exactly? Well, since the romantics, a writer has been an invention. A second self. The one who writes the poems.

The self- created personality of the Poet. The wind swept Satanic hero gazing into nature, seeing things that no one else can see, creating a self who can do that seeing for him, a second self that exists only in the books...the poet...THAT is the one who gets the fan mail and the nut mail and the stalkers...but it's the other one, the creator of the creator, who has to negotiate with them all, as well as with their own bloated, and eventually unrecognizable avatar. "It is him, the other Borges. He is the one things happen to," says Borges, from his labyrinthine desk in the National Library of Argentina, confessing at the last in self estrangement that "I do not know which one of us has written this page"

Lord Byron, very archetype of the Writer as Public I HAVE to use the word I? Can't I not? commodity, as phenomenon...I WON'T say celebrity , I won't ...the word is meaningless, pounded by over use into a flatness...killed...words can be killed...oh yes they can...and television especially is an ecological disaster for words...

(It started with sport you know. It did. Sports commentary, where fantastic, phenomenal, brilliant, extraordinary, superb...yes, even superlative...have all come to mean EXACTLY THE SAME THING... "Very good".... and not much else. May I suggest transcendent, numinous and hermaneutic as newbies for the next World Cup...His left hermaneutic!)

Celebrity never used to mean a PERSON at was a quality...something that someone had...somewhere between popularity and fame...they were celebrated...the fact of their existence was felt to enhance our own...they reflected well on human any case they represented..something

Does that mean Byron? Does that mean Jordan? Well, maybe it means both...and perhaps it is interesting to think of both of them in terms of the human possibility they share even if it's no more than the disposition to make a fool of yourself in public...

Anyway, the romantic poets, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats et al...pioneered the creation of a poetic self...a particular state of being...of originality, sensibility, and a self made muse or intermediary presence which would allow them to both experience and express experience in an individual way...that involved, inevitably, if only accidentally, exposure of that self to public gaze.

Lonely pioneers they were, most of them. Their second, poetic souls were made in private. Not Byron. Byron did it all in public. Quite by accident, he created a new kind of human being. The Personality. When I was a kid, that word meant the same as Celebrity does now...The private self in public. We used to use that word. Whatever happened to it. Well, if words can get worn out, maybe they can also be brought back...Personality, then...the self created self...created yet reading...It may be said the person writing down words becomes a poet only when they are read...that this second self, the poet, only exists at all with the aquiescence of the reader...when the reader remakes themselves when they are reading, then the scribbler may be said to become a poet. A personality

It may be that it was the advance of the technology of printing and of the business of publishing itself, (so well documented in the archive) that made someone like Byron possible in 1812 and not might think of an earlier English poet whose claim to fame was his badness, madness and dangerousness...the Earl of Rochester...but unless you're a scholar of 17th century English poetry...(Rochester ain't that good) or you're a really serious fan of Johnny Depp, you've never even heard of him.

Everyone has heard of Bad Lord Byron. The genius as Satan...the beautiful vampire. And his successors are legion...I can't even be bothered making a list. I've already mentioned Johnny Depp. Nominations for Byron clones welcome.

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