Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Poetry, trying to “get it”

Unlike some people, I “get” Jazz and I “get” Prog Rock but despite numerous attempts I can’t seem to “get” Vic & Bob. Also on my “I don’t get it” shelf is poetry.
I felt it was time to move poetry to somewhere else in my mind space (no chintz allowed) and that’s why I find myself attending a poetry evening at The Craiglands Hotel put on as part of the Ilkley Literature Festival.

I have a barely suppressed feeling of entering a familiar but somehow different reality as I sit down and wait for the fun to start. People are chatting about poetry, poets and their personal favourites and I feel apart, left out and bereft of conversation. To me “iambic pentameter” sounds like a device Walter Bishop would invent on the sci-fi programme Fringe and I feel slightly uncomfortable. Then, horror of horrors, the person next to me asks me a question about the poets appearing tonight… now I know how a rabbit feels heading towards speeding wheels. Neatly dodging the question by asking one of my own, the evening starts.

Tonight, three poets are reading from their collections.
First up is Paul Bentley. Brought up in the South Yorkshire coalfields, his first reading is a section of a long and powerful poem about the miners’ strike. He finishes with a football related poem regarding traditional team rivalries. I think I would need to study Paul’s poems on the written page to appreciate all that he was conveying tonight.

Paul is followed by Jonathan Davidson and his poems are personal, nostalgic and humorous with the unexpected appearance of death and mortality in a lot of them. So much so, that I can imagine Pratchett’s Death sitting at the back (thinking in capitals of course) and nodding sagely whilst wearing a beret and puffing on a Gauloise.

The final poet is Ian McMillan. Another of the Barnsley professional Yorkshiremen alongside Dickie Bird and Michael Parkinson, Ian’s poems, when he can fit them in around an almost non-stop raconteur patter, are funny and observant. He’s fast becoming another national treasure.

The evening ends with a Q&A session and then I reflect on three poets with completely different approaches to the medium and all of them making me stop and think about subject matter and observation.

So, do I “get “ poetry now?

Nope, but I am starting to appreciate the breadth of what poetry can be and a desire to understand more. Where to start is the issue.

Now, where did I put that Shooting Stars box set 

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