Friday, 31 October 2008

More on Poetry as Public Art

More thoughts on poetry as public art after this post

(I started writing it as a response to on a small island's comment but it got all long!)

The bluechrome blog says National Poetry Day is a waste of time because the general public (GP)consider poetry to be unloveable and don't want to spend the time to understand the linguistic/stylistic intricacies. So it's a waste of time and money.

Isn't the whole point to expose the GP to poetry that is lovable and too-clever-by-half? That poetry didn't stop at the first world war? You don't have to understand sculpture to appreciate and enjoy Barry Flanagan's Hares. You don't need an English PhD to read Carol Ann Duffy or Simon Armitage or Rita Ann Higgins.

And why is it that at times of stress and celebration (weddings and funerals) GP turn to poetry still?

And it also says poetry is thriving. No it's not. Maybe in a 1% of the population who write poetry themselves and another 1/2% or so who read it by choice and subscribe to those small mags that scrabble for cash from one issue to another.

So if you treat poetry as public art, accessible on street corners, in magazines, in doctor's surgeries, you can and will re-introduce some of the GP to poetry as art worth considering. If you only convert a small number, that will swell the total of active poetry users by a considerable percentage.

And while we're on the subject, some of the little magazines are wonderful, some are full of poems from a clique of people known personally to the editors, some are vanity publishing by another name and some are just dire, or worse, a mix of dire with really rather good/promising. I find it depressing when I am lucky enough to have something in a magazine and when I read it, many of the other inclusions are of questionable quality/truly awful and only the poet's mother could love them.

I love the photo above, a guerilla poet going out on the streets and night and chalking up poems (I see it as a man in a hoodie much like Banksy) under the streetlights. Maybe we should all do it.


cleo said...

I love poetry, could you recommend some magazines I could subscribe to.

BarbaraS said...

Don't lose that passion, EW; that's what sustains poetry. If we're all passionate about poetry, it'll grow...

Peter Goulding said...

I think there's some truth in bluechrome's blog. I see it as dining out - some people only like McDonalds. Nothing wrong with McDonalds - food that fills you and a happy party atmosphere. Other people go to nice restaurants - special occasion, delicious food, a bit pretentious but nice enough. Then again, the top class restaurants serve haute cuisine that is probably only appreciated by other chefs and professional gastronomers. GP can't understand that servings so small can possibly feed you adequately.
The trick is to get the fast food brigade to sample some nice restaurants.
Having said that, home cooking is often the best.

Emerging Writer said...

Hi Cleo,

If you're talking Irish ones, I'd start with Poetry Ireland Review. Other's I like are The Shop and Stinging Fly (also fiction) If you can get an independent bookshop like BOoks Upstairs in Dublin you can buy single copies to see which suit you. There are many more. Any other specific recommendations?

Emerging Writer said...


I think I follow your metaphor but There are very few people who eat in McDonalds every night. Sometimes everyone craves Pizza or curry or spaghetti or something a bit different. And most people have eaten something at McDonalds at some time or another.

on a small island said...

You're making perfect sense, EW, as always.