Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Poetry's Image Problem

Newsnight Review special on poetry last Friday included a discussion on poetry during which the question was asked "Does poetry have an image problem? The best contribution was by poet Simon Armitage (right): "The answer to the question is of course, that's what it's there for - to have an image problem. Poetry is obstinately not trying to appeal to everybody, it's disobedient, it's contrary. It doesn't reach the right hand margin most of the time, it doesn't even reach the bottom of the page a lot of the time, it simply isn't there to please everybody. . . . Poetry has always existed between two kinds of death, a death where it's so obscure that no-one wants to read it and a death where it's so facile that it can't simply be doing its job and between these perameters it's always going up and down."

A nice answer to those who think that poetry must be made "easier to understand" for the "ordinary man in the street". We must credit the poetry reader with some intelligence.

This discussion is part of the poetry season which the BBC is running at the moment. I saw some of the programmes and recorded more for future viewing - when the rain returns! The programme by Armando Iannucci on Milton's Paradise Lost was very good and that poem is next on my reading list. Next highlight is possibly the Arena profile of T S Eliot on Saturday 6 June at 21:45 on BBC Two.

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