Thursday, January 17, 2008

Good Potery

I spend quite a lot of time listening to the Home Service as they used to call it, and in the mornings they have been airing the short-listed poets for the TS Eliot Prize. Now this being nearly the time when we remember Supperman , Robert Burns, and his amazing gift of tapping into the spirit and feelings of the common man in a highly accessible and humorous way, it led me to think about what seems to constitute good poetry today because, call me a philistine if you like, I’m buggered if I could understand much of what was being being read out. Of course, you need to look at the poems properly, on the page, but sad to say- and I repeat this is probably a reflection of my own stupidity- with some of them this does not seem to help much. Even Ian Duhig, an old friend and a man who helped fish me out of a canal in Galway City after an ill-fated encounter with the self-styled ‘Bard of Poteen’ at the Cuirt Literary Festival, seems to be operating for at least some of the time on strata pitched pretty high above my head. This leads me to think what is the point of writing the stuff if people can’t understand a word of it? The beauty of poetry is of course wordplay, association and image, but surely if it’s so multi-layered and arcane that you need a Doctorate to unravel it, we are saying that poetry is less an art form that the public can associate and empathise with and more an intellectual exercise restricted to and appreciated by a tiny minority. What seems disturbing is that the arbiters of what is counted ‘good’ poetry seem to be reinforcing this polarization.

2 comments:

hope said...

You've hit the proverbial nail on the head in describing why so many people hear the word "poetry" and shudder!

Somewhere along the way an overly educated scholar deemed poetry the exclusive property of his equally erudite brethren and their superior, well heeled friends. I always thought if you could read, poetry was yours for the taking. And as in life, what you get out of poetry is colored by your own life experiences.

Please keep taking us on a journey that is as much for the heart as it is an exercise in I.Q. aerobics. Sure, I like a well turned phrase, but the ones that make me smile stay with me much longer. Your poetry makes me grin.

Tom said...

I sometimes leap across the room to turn off the radio, but never so urgently as when "poetry" comes on. At least the POET LAUREATE is indeed a true representative of modern poetry, utterly without talent or humour, and so far up his own arse that he doesn't think it matters.A society without poetry, like ours, is surely doomed...