Love and Tennis In A Time of War
The pulse of 20th century British poetry's durability - and sometime light, popular touch - can be taken today, as the death of the most famous tennis-playing woman in poetic history was announced: that of Miss J. Hunter Dunn, who, of course, inspired Poet Laureate John Betjeman to compose his most-beloved poem, "A Subaltern's Love Song". It might only be traditional verse, but it was musical, brilliantly witty, swooningly (if realistically) romantic, and oh-so gin-and-lime middle class. There may be "poetry wars", but somewhere there is also a Britain that needed such poems, and, thankfully, got them. Growing up, I loved this poem, and was moved, to hear it mentioned on the BBC this morning - and sad that Miss Hunter Dunn had died. As I've said before, the heart belongs in poetry, too - and sentiment - and a great challenge for the 21st century is to try to find ways to intelligently combine feeling, and complexity, in poetry, so that it neither stales, nor panders, while also communicating (if only sometimes) with readers, in the world.