April 24: poetry today

At the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens Medieval festival over the Easter weekend there was a medieval trio, the Princes in the Tower (‘party like it’s 1555’, seventy or so years after the princes in the tower but not to worry); a falconry man; some armed combat between knights in arms and some poetry performances. I cannot watch poetry. I run away behind a tree. I can be the same about theatre. I need to sit next to the exit. What I think I am getting embarrassed about is the histrionics and extrovert nature of performance. This time I did run away behind a tree but wafts of it came over to me. It had high performance, aggressive energy levels. It was unbearable. It foregrounded the performance, leaving the material in the shadows. Maybe in the poetry I like the performer is minor. The performer is like a good referee in a football match, invisible. The material just comes through. I suppose performance is one way of trying to make poetry relevant or engaging. The other manifestation of poetry today are the rhymed couplets we hear as trailers on the television. There is one trailing the coverage of the London marathon at the moment. I don’t like this stuff either. It is poetry of the type:

All kinds of sizes will run in the race

But only the best will keep up with the pace

The fat and the thin; the svelte and the chubby;

A wife doing her best to keep up with her hubby;

The ages they go from spotty youth to ninety-three;

They’re all on the way to get home for their tea.

The doggerel. the rhyme, the references to family, the sense of the cosy, the inclusivity of it all, the fake fraternity. It could be an advert for Horlicks. It’s that unchallenging.



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