People seem to be paying attention to poetry again, it seems, which isn’t surprising in the light of Amanda Gorman’s magnificent The Hill We Climb. Her books have stormed up the charts and rightly so.
Poetry for important occasions, state occasions, is often… not all that. A bout of online rummaging in preparation for writing this post didn’t turn up anything particularly spectacular, even though many of the UK’s previous Poets Laureate have been people who produced other notable works. (OK, we’ll allow a few minutes to appreciate William McGonagall…) Maybe knowing your poem has to be really important and really special makes you produce, in the end, something that’s too self-conscious, too bland, too careful. That the inauguration of Joe Biden was such a historic moment might well have made most poets run away in fright, and the fact that Gorman is only 22 makes her achievement even more remarkable.
Erotic poetry is also difficult to do well. I have at least one volume of erotic verse in my collection, which I probably nicked out of the review cupboard some 30 years ago: along with the obvious (Donne, Marvell, ee cummings, the Earl of Rochester) there are quite a lot of bawdy limericks and rugby songs attributed to Anon, which appear to be there just to fill up the space. I’d have preferred a bit more Edna St Vincent Millay had I been the one making the selection but poetry, like comedy and music, is an art form where personal taste matters as much as anything.
I may well start digging for contemporary erotic poetry and see what is out there. If you’ve read or heard – or indeed written – anything interesting, feel free to get in touch. Material for the LAM lockdown broadcasts is always of use, as those are likely to be continuing for some time.
No poetry in the bookshop at present, but plenty of other things…