“Most people ignore poetry because poetry ignores most people.” That may have been true of the 60s when the late poet Adrian Mitchell was quoted, but is it relevant now?
Mitchell wanted poets to tackle the great subjects and it is true most only turn to poetry at times of great emotion. But after centuries of love poems, who can write another that doesn’t say what’s already been said somewhere before? Occasional verse, as most Poet Laureates have proved, is tricky and often forgettable. Great war poems were written when poets were amongst the conscripts and had no choice but to write about being in the trenches and what they witnessed. Difficult to do that after acres of newsprint or when your experience of war is watching it on TV and when the ongoing “war on terror” creates bereavement rather than hands-on experience of combat.
New Year’s Eve
Thx 4 txt. Luvd gift.
2007? Gotta B over 2006 -
thinking: didn’t kiss him that am
cos I’d just put my lipstick on.
Put a vodka on the bar,
C U L8r.
Got the flat.
New phone’s gr8.
Downloaded her song
as my ringtone.
Still got her photo,
the 1 taken b4…
I’ll light a candle 2nite.
Although contemporary poets don’t ignore contemporary events, you can’t write a good poem as fast as news gets broadcast.
School did a very good job at trying to put me off poetry. We only studied male poets and got the message poetry was “male, about war or nature” none of which I wanted to write about. Either than women didn’t write poetry – when I was living proof that they did – or that women didn’t write poetry worth studying. Hardly an encouragement to someone who was writing and happened to be female.
So how did I find poets who were women? Not at the bookshops full of anthologies and collections by dead white males. Anyone who suggests I could have ordered collections by women has clearly not encountered “the computer says it doesn’t exist” attitude of staff who find it easier to say “can’t do.” Not through exposure to poems in newspapers and magazines as poetry magazines don’t get shelf-space. Not through Poems on the Underground either as the scheme doesn’t extend beyond London.
And this is really the problem. Poetry doesn’t ignore most people. Most people ignore poetry because they don’t get exposed to it and the rare occasion they do they expect it to be difficult or to be so multi-layered with meaning they won’t “get” it. So they ignore it, because that’s easier. But are they right to?