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Monday, 8 September 2008

Is Poetry Weird?

Pity poor Pat Schofield. By all accounts, an unremarkable mind, she has become immortalised by the satiric pen of the major British poet, Carol Ann Duffy. At first, I sided with Duffy in this, as a poet myself, who knows poems need snow and gunshots (to paraphrase Truffaut) - and Schofield is an epically-proportioned dunce, for trying to ban Duffy's poem because it deals with a violent subject matter (murder by knife); especially ironic, this, in the country of Romeo and Juliet, and Hercule Poirot. However, has Duffy not killed a flea with an A-bomb? By titling the poem with a real person's name, has she not been, ultimately, a tad too cruel? Even Yeats and Swift, in their satiric swoon, often titled their invectives less directly. This poem could practically be mailed in the post.

I fear, this streak of brilliant malice may cost Duffy the position of laureate - we can't really have the Queen's rep naming and shaming dumb citizens at will, can we? Imagine if every poet titled poems about real people who annoy them, everytime they do? We'd all be wading in lawsuits, or eponymous verse. I had hoped a more imaginative solution could have been opted for - a character invented, to symbolise all the idiots in the world who don't like poetry - at last count, over 5 billion, and 99.99 % of humanity. Instead, poor Schofield gets the lion's share of the blame, for a genetic/ social fact that science or religion cannot obscure: almost everyone except poets now thinks "poetry is weird". And, hold on a minute - isn't it? Would poets really love it so much, if it was not weird? Weird, in the wider sense, pertaining to futurity's power, and magic, and so on, as well as linguistic strangeness. It boils down to this: only a poet would write a poem to try to undo the damage an ordinary person caused by admitting they don't get poetry's charisma. It's like sending roses to someone with hayfever.

Duffy has just made a poetry-hating dolt famous for all time in the English canon. How's that for a dish served cold? Maybe not. But, has any poet yet figured out how to build a better verse-trap? No. Try as poets might, if they go too experimental, they're accused of being obscure; and if they go all Armitage-loves-Oasis on us, they can't compete with the real celebs like Damien Hirst and Beckam, let alone Hollywooders. Follow the money: we're in a world where poetry is less valued than day-old day passes. Let's start satirising almost every human on the planet, and make them love us, fast!
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