"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
Right folks. Pull yourself together, gird your loins and start speaking in iambic pentameter. Thursday is National Poetry Day, the focus of my whole working year. On the NPD website we have links to Natalie Merchant songs based on poems; to the Global Poetry System where you can upload a photo of poetry; to blogs by fine poets and poetry activists – etc etc. From tomorrow (Monday) you can see the shortlist for the Forward Prizes for Poetry, and a short film of a Philip Gross poem that will make you cry. Find us on Facebook and Twitter (@PoetryDayUK). Get involved!
You can also read my words here in response to the Guardian’s article on contemporary poetry. A journalist needs to make a story engaging – but another article that decries the upsurge in poetry slams and open mics is a little unnecessary. There are many different kinds of poetry, just as there are many kinds of music. You don’t have to like them all. However, Ju Shardlow raises good points – and she is a practising poet herself, so puts her money where her mouth is. On Thursday she will be at the Poetry Library in London, reciting poems all day – she is one of the Poetry Army and good luck to her.
Here’s the thing. Some modern poetry is rubbish. But…. whisper it…. some of the poetry of Shakespeare’s time was rubbish. The rubbish of his generation has been filtered out by centuries of critical scrutiny, so that only the best survives for us to read. And how does a contemporary reader find the best contemporary work? Why, dear reader, by looking at that National Poetry Day website – or by going to The Poetry Station to see videos of good new poetry – or by listening to fine poets (including Tennyson!) at The Poetry Archive. Or look out for the winners of the Forward Prizes on Wednesday and buy the book which brings them together.
In ‘Any Other Business’ I’ll be brief… the Spoken Word All Stars show at Manchester’s Contact Theatre was only a partial success for this audience member. The real star of the night was Kate Tempest. I won’t give you a video link because when I saw her on video, I didn’t see how powerful and accomplished a performer she would be live. Back to my poetry/music analogy: if Seamus Heaney is the classical music of poetry, and slam is folk music, Kate Tempest is rock’n’roll: the Janis Joplin of poetry. And quickly I’ll mention that the Companion Stones project which I’ve mentioned here so often, might be nominated for a Ted Hughes award. Read about the project at more length in this A-N magazine article.
You have been watching a party political broadcast on behalf of National Poetry Day. Make a little pledge to yourself, dear reader – ‘On Thursday I will…. attend a poetry event/ listen to a poetry programme/ write a poem/ pour myself a stiff gin and have five minutes in the bath with Ted Hughes’. At least one of those should be fun…