Jeremy Jeremy Jeremy!
I have to say this is more of a ranting response than a well formed argument however, he’s stepped on a tiny nerve deliberately winding up poets…
It’s pretty silly actually, why doesn’t Jeremy Paxman encourage “ordinary” people (whoever he means by “ordinary”) to engage with poets and poetry? Poetry is not a pop song with sampled verses, auto-tuned vocals and lyrics written by someone who isn’t the singer; mass produced for commercial use in clubs like Broad St bars. It’s a completely different culture and it’s accessible for those who want it. I know so many poets, including myself, that have connected with someone “ordinary”, who have never thought they’d like poetry because of the prose they’d learnt in school. Maybe it’s time to change the syllabus? I can name poets that run workshops in schools engaging with young people all around! I can name poets that have successfully produced EP’s out of their poems! Poets that make a good living out of what they do! So surely Paxman doesn’t know every single poet and poem that exists out there – his generalisation just isn’t good enough in terms of a whole demographic of poets who already do exactly what he’s talking about.
And what is that with making poems simpler? Not all poetry is understood because it’s the expression of the poet/writer! As George Szirtes said in his article in the Guardian today, ‘poetry is felt, not fathomed’. So why should we compromise our art?
Step out of London, rub your eyes, see the rest of the country… The rest of the world Jeremy! Poetry is massive – I meet new poets nearly every week! I take my friends who aren’t into poetry to events when I can drag them along and they enjoy it or at least say ‘actually that wasn’t that bad!’. So for him and the judges to scrutinise the work of artists for them to prove that their poem is worthy of a prize based on it’s accessibility to the “ordinary”, poems that probably actually has some real meaning and credibility unlike those mass produced pop club songs that shows exactly how “ordinary” he is… Step outside the bubble of wealth and stop stirring it up, or at least encourage for lesser known poets to enter poetry competitions such as the Forward Prize – there are a lot of poets who feel that they haven’t even got a chance in winning!
Maybe Jeremy, you should come along to Poetry Jam first Thursday of the Month, Urban Coffee Company – Birmingham, it’s free entry, I’ll even buy you a coffee and a cake, and you tell me the poetry is incomprehensible?