I avoided poetry for the most part because I found it intimidating and worried that I wouldn’t understand it. Why? Once again the reason is the same as why most adults don’t read books; poor English teaching which is geared towards passing exams rather than engendering a love for literature for it’s own sake.
We had to study some painful crap at school. Totally off putting. Good job then that reading and books were a fabric of our house, just as they are now.
But poetry is a different kettle of fish. And I think I have worked out why. Reading is a pretty solitary pursuit; yes you can discuss books but only after you have read them, whereas with poetry it seems to be better read aloud in a group and then savoured and discussed.
My first experience of a poetry reading was Andrew Motion last night at Hull Truck. It helped the subject matter, war was within my comfort zone, but Motion’s poems are so simple, lacking in verbosity and oozing with passion for the subject matter. One that really struck a chord with me was about Harry Patch, the oldest surviving veteran of the Great War but his work on the Iraq War through the eyes of an MOD advisor was blunt and too the point. He was criticised at the time for being political, and as Poet Laureate some felt he should stick to doing anodyne stuff about the Royal Family. But I felt Andrew Motion was simply describing reality as he saw it.
I enjoyed the whole vibe except for two academics from Hull University, both drunk, who talked all the time until there was a bit that interested them. Rude and boorish, but the very types who would sneer and look down their noses at people who like football. I watched one of them at the wine reception who was loud, obnoxious and accompanied by an impressionable female post grad student. Classy.
In the lift on the way out, two older ladies commented to me about how much they had enjoyed it. Yes, I replied, he is very inspirational and possesses a quiet dignity. Oh really? they said, we just thought he was seriously sexy!
They, it turned out had been at Cooking with Elvis.