The QES Weighs In On Poetry
A few years back, I spent a bizarre night, lecturing on contemporary poetry, to the QES (Queen's English Society), and Dr. Bernard Lamb (a writer of naughty limericks, as on Eyewear). It comes as something of a surprise then, to hear him on the BBC radio this evening, debating with poet-critic-publisher Michael Schmidt (one of the best minds British poetry and poetry criticism has), on whether or not poetry must rhyme and use traditional metre. Lamb insists it should, and wants the "Poetry Society" to tell him what poetry is, suggesting that any society that doesn't know what poetry is shouldn't be a poetry one; of course, he's very wrong. Poetry is essentially unknowable, and poetry gestures to new, yet unheard, or written, ways of saying. It also, obviously, resists easy definition, and narrow formal limits. What's the point of poetry, or a poet, who always toes a line? Surely, any rule that a society - especially one designed to uphold the "Queen's English" - might come up with, would be a good one to break, and by a poet. Schmidt acquitted himself very well, and proved his points ably.