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Motion Sickness

Andrew Motion has done more than any other Poet Laureate to promote poetry. So, it comes as something of a sad shock to see him so openly complain about the thankless task of the role, and to hear him describe his challenges overcoming writer's block. Certainly, the role made him world famous - and he is still young enough to, when his term comes to an end soon, move on to bigger things. However, this intervention will, no doubt, raise new calls for the abolition of the role, at a time when either Simon Armitage, or Carol Ann Duffy, are poised to take it on. Of course, as Eyewear has noted, British poetry is in a curious state at the moment, as funding and other demands impinge on it.

Roughly-speaking, British poetry is going more towards performance, the digital, and the mainstream, but not really connecting with a wider audience, anyway (see next post about the Booker) - since even serious literary fiction is now struggling to connect. The problem with poetry, is that, despite its supposed musical charms, what makes it most interesting (and what delights and challenges its practitioners) is not mere empirical expression of fact or feeling - but a complex tussle with form, poetics, the tradition, and ever-new-ways of saying things, of putting words where they've never been before.

This proves problematic not for poets, though - but for the dwindling (or dying) poetry audience - because there is no longer an established literate base of readers committed enough to literature's deepest implications and rewards to take the poet's journey. As such, most poets haul trains that are only 5% full. This is an exhausting, anguish-fuelled journey. Motion is to be commended for his honesty, and encouraged to keep writing - his strange, moving narratives of loss and England are excellent, and as much the landscape of contemporary British writing as any Booker-winning novel.
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