Why not read more poetry? Go on, it’s good for you.
I don’t mean that to sound medicinal – really – or like some old English teacher who may long ago have put you off the stuff for life. If you find yourself shying away from reading poetry why not try one of the collections on the shortlist for the 2009 T S Eliot Prize, announced yesterday?
Poetry is so portable. Why not slip one of those ten volumes into your jacket pocket or work bag? Forget the morning rush hour, lose yourself in a poem or two, it’s likely to make you feel less grumpy than reading the paper and no nasty print on your fingers.
There’s something for everyone on this year’s T S Eliot list whether you’re coming to poetry for the first time, are a seasoned reader or are writing poetry – the list is a great resource.
For starters try Alice Oswald’s startling and somewhat subversive remake of the ‘nature’ poem or Sharon Olds’s sequence of war poems that, whilst excavating her own memories of the Second World War speak subtly of Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan.
For poetry watchers Simon Armitage’s [Chair of the Judges] reported remarks make interesting reading. Sharp intakes of breath as Forward prizewinner, Don Paterson, didn’t make the final cut. Armitage says there were many excellent books under consideration but what the judges looked for was bravery. Apparently they felt that too many poets were “in a holding pattern.” The chosen books each reveal a poet pushing their craft to the next level – something all writer’s need to do – keep challenging themselves.
Talking as I was, yesterday, about reading to write, no matter what genre you aspire to work in, reading poetry is the most wonderful way to sharpen your awareness of language and the ways in which it works on us.
So newcomers - still not feeling brave enough? Why not rope in a few friends?
I set up a poetry reading group – The PRG – and I’ve written about it for the Poetry Book Society’s website. Click here and you can read the article and then follow the links to find out more about the books.
Go on, I dare you.