December 7 2011

Pompous Poets Against Capitalism!

Charlotte Hays

We don’t very often mention poetry on Inkwell, but a fracas over a poetry prize in England once again says something about the artsy set: they love government handouts.

Two poets have withdrawn their names from the shortlist of a literary contest named after Lloyds Bank employee and poet T. S. Eliot because the sponsor—formerly the government—is a hedge fund this year.

The sponsor is Aurum, a hedge fund about which I know nothing except that, according to its website, it was founded in 1994, has won some awards for investing prowess, and is engaged in various charitable projects.  

Pompous poet John Kinsella can’t possibly be considered for an award sponsored by such a group:

“I am grateful to Alice Oswald for bringing the sponsorship of the TS Eliot Prize to my attention," said Kinsella in a statement released by his publisher. "I regret that I must do this at a particularly difficult time for the Poetry Book Society but the business of Aurum does not sit with my personal politics and ethics. I am grateful to everyone at the PBS for all they have done to promote my work and that of poetry in general."

What is so awful about Aurum? The poet speaks:

"Hedge funds are at the very pointy end of capitalism, if I can put it that way," he added.

So, really, what is wrong with Aurum, unless Kinsella knows something about the fund that I don’t, is merely that it represents capitalism, a system that has provided comfort and a decent standard of living to more people than any other economic system in human history.

The money for the award previously came from the Arts Council, which, as you can guess, is supported by funds from the government (and also a national lottery).

Money from government=good. But wouldn’t you expect poets to be more original than to embrace this hackneyed idea?

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