Friday, 12 October 2012

Poetry plea...

Last Thursday was National Poetry Day. You will now, either stop reading immediately, or carry on enthusiastically, because like marmite, poetry seems to provoke extreme reactions from people. They either love it or hate it.
I’m firmly in the love camp, (for poetry and marmite) but I do understand where the poetry haters are coming from. I haven’t always liked poetry. Like many people, I hated it at school. We read boring poems that I didn’t understand: poems that didn’t speak to me on any level. Adrian Mitchell’s famous quote, ‘Most people ignore most poetry, because most poetry ignores most people.’ felt utterly true.

But something changed: it sounds obvious, but you have to shop around with poetry. Just because you don’t like one particular song, you would never say that you don’t like music. Yet we do this all the time with poetry. Just because we don’t like a particular style of poetry or we had a bad experience with it at school – we write off poetry as a whole. We say we hatepoetry. But we don’t. We just haven’t found a poem that we like yet. And this takes a bit of work. It’s not like hearing a catchy song on the radio and then going out and buying the album. Music surrounds us but we have to seek poetry out – although the internet has made this much easier.  It’s a hit and miss process, you’ll read loads of stuff that you don’t like but then suddenly your eye will drop onto a poem that could have been written for you. You’ll think it has been, you’ll smirk to yourself, suddenly intrigued, you didn’t realise poetry could be this good. Then you’ll read everything that the poet has written, then you may start looking at the poets who inspired your poet, and then suddenly you’re away! You like poetry.

On National Poetry day, I spent the day at a poetry reading at The Bluecoat Chambers hosted by local poet, Denis Joe of North End Writers. It was a rare opportunity to hear dozens of people reading poems of their own and sharing poems that they love with the audience. I was impressed at the range of work that was read out: witty, political, heartfelt, intelligent…. and the odd one about cats. It was a place to sit and listen, some of it would just wash over you, but then you’d hear something that stopped you cold. It was worth going for that moment: the moment when you hear something that grabs hold of you and keeps hold of you, something - a line or an image that you know will stay with you. That’s what I love about poetry and that’s why I’ll be celebrating National Poetry Day again next year.

Paula Currie

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