Slam competitions and free verse are all well and good, but poetry didn't start with TS Eliot
No, I'm not going to get all tweed-suited about the "arse-dribble", as Stephen Fry called it, of modern verse.
Quite the contrary: new-fangled slam competitions and free verse open mics can be inspiring. There is clearly a market for the non-traditional: comedic performance poetry, rap, and verse devoid of rhyme or metre. Just look at the success of Wendy Cope, whose witty ditties made her BBC Radio 4 listeners' choice to succeed Ted Hughes as Poet Laureate. Kevin Eldon enjoyed huge fringe success with his social-commentator-poet creation Paul Hamilton. When Ross Sutherland asked for comedic spin-offs of Tom Cruise's Last Barman poem last month, he was overwhelmed by submissions.
"Different" and "new" poetry should be written. Of course. When Robert Frost described free verse as akin to "playing tennis without a net", he unwittingly hit upon why it has seen such a rise – its nonconformist nature is the perfect antidote to the daily grind, and allows for anarchic ponderings or just plain silliness. National Poetry Day should certainly be celebrating it on 7 October, but not to the extent that "older" poetry gets pushed out.
Just 10 of the 168 events listed on the National Poetry Day website have any connection with a world pre-Eliot. Ten. Scrolling through what's on, there's a smattering of Pope, Coleridge and Byron. Hughes's house is open to the public.
On the other hand, the amount of rap, slam and jazz-funk-mix-ups on offer is preposterous. How many slam champions do you know? Are you one? Most people find such scathing artistic competitions intimidating. Why don't NPD organisers lobby for changes to spoken word in the school curriculum? Or at least use some of the Arts Council funding (however slashed) to bump up the number of events where boring people like me can sit around, have a cup of tea and read Dryden together.
Some of the events even lull you into thinking they have traditional roots. I got rather excited about The Great Bardic Alliance show at the Camden Eye, thinking there would be a re-enactment of Pope and Bolingbroke battering Walpole round the head with an copy of An Essay on Man. Sadly, it's a rap night featuring "Poetry Kapow!"
The London open mic circuit would certainly benefit from organising classic or romantic themed poetry events. Think about it: hipsters paying £5 for a Keats reading in the opium-esque basement bars of Shoreditch. Comedy Cafe punters drunkenly reimagining Gilgamesh. They'd make a fortune at the bar.
It's not the NPD organisers' fault. The PR team even admit it's an "umbrella campaign on a low budget" funded by Arts Council England who are scraping through, expecting large cuts next year. The Poetry Society, putting on events in 2010, has a puny budget of £281,057. Award-winning poets such as Tim Key wouldn't be saying "Where's the Poetry Cafe?" if literary funding was taken seriously by the government.
We need to ensure that the legacy of pre-20th-century poets doesn't go the same way as Larkin's smile. We must look backwards to know how to go forwards. After all, where would Cope be without Blake's simplicity? Wilde without Homer? Heaney without Hughes? No, the death-knell for fixed, rhythmic poetry has not sounded yet.
FONTE: The Guardian