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Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Does poetry matter?

It is national poetry day in the UK on Thursday. Scores of poets from around the world will be in London for a week of readings and events. But will anyone be listening?

Everyone can name a handful of best-selling novelists, cinema mega-stars or opera divas. But can you think of more than one famous living poet?

Is verse just not the thing for the 21st century? Can poetry compete with all the entertainment on offer these days? Do you read any poetry?

Unfortunately we will not be able to discuss poetry on Sunday's Talking Point but we hope to return the topic another time. So please keep e-mailing us with your favourite poems. And don't forget to include your phone number if you want to take part in any future programme.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

Poets are basically failed novelists. They write complete rubbish because they know literary snobs are foolish enough to take it seriously. What they do for written text is the same as what Tracy Emin does for art, NOTHING!! But as long as there are pretentious arty types around who think criticism is an attribute of only ignorant people, then the majority will still be suffering.
Chris Holyhan, West Berks, England

If you're an ugly guy, poetry is your one great hope of impressing a woman.
Ashley Cheyne, Wellington, New Zealand


Poetry is a mortal benefit, and we should take it to lunch

L. Loukopoulos, Detroit, USA
Poetry is a mortal benefit, and we should take it to lunch. Unlike literature, it is compact and hard to digest. But so is calamari or a French speaking papagallo.
L. Loukopoulos, Detroit, USA

I do not know who will leave their job to hear our poetry in one huge mob, of people claiming to hear with care, the poetic strains in a writer's fair, but, let us all hope and pray, that it will happen this special day! Happy National Poetry Day!
Dave Adams, St. Louis/USA


Poetry will continue to be a powerful force in literature and expression

Saeed, USA
Poetry will continue to be a powerful force in literature and expression. However, in recent years the political-correctness movement has tried to inculcate what constitutes good poetry. It is almost heretical for a fan to say he or she does not like a Maya Angelou, for example, even though her work may not be evocative.
Saeed, USA

I'm not really a big poetry fan. However you can have a giggle at limericks.
Stuart Scott, UK


Roses are Red
Violets are blue
I don't like poetry
but I think you do
SM, UK

I am 21 years of age and considered by many to be more interested in pop music than poetry. However, whilst I do not claim to enjoy or understand all poems, I would much rather spend my time reading than listening to the latest chart music rubbish. Poetry has as much place these days as idiotic pop tunes. Perhaps if more modern music artists enjoyed poetry, it may give them a better chance of writing a decent pop song, rather than covering old classics.
Gemma, UK

Poetry occupies a unique place in literature. It is capable of being the most beautiful and significant form of the written word. At the same time it often occupies the lowest rung, occupying a place that is arguably outside the true definition of "literature" or "art". It is regrettable that the modern era all too often panders to the latter.
Kent K, Cocoa Beach, Florida, USA


There is a wealth of great new poetry all around us enriching our lives almost sub-consciously

Alister McClure, GB
There is a wealth of great new poetry all around us enriching our lives almost sub-consciously. The problem is there's an overload of some real junk too which, I fear, puts people off. Personally, I will not go to the regular poetry events at our local theatre for fear of boredom. However, I do enjoy reading good poetry at my own leisure.
Alister McClure, GB

As someone who has written poetry as a form of catharsis and had some printed, I am going to say yes, it does matter. It matters to me and that is all there is to say.
Elizabeth Coldwell, Sheffield, UK

Everyone is touched by poetry, whether it be sentimental or funny, thoughtful or startling. We may be intimidated by poetry, thinking there's "something else there" we don't understand, but the enjoyment of poetry is visceral.
Chris Fow, Fairfax, Virginia, USA

Poetry moves the soul, transcending class, time and the idiosyncrasies of language. Lament for those too blinded by the light of our great mammon, the almighty pound, to see past our situations and through the lines to something higher and indefinable, something that strives nobly towards the great unanswerable questions that have been man's legacy for this brief eternity.
Joshua J. Geary, Hamilton, USA

Appreciation of poetry, and the arts in general, is a very personal thing. Some people, like myself, quite simply could not live without the emotions and sensitivities that the arts bring to our lives. For others it does nothing and they couldn't care less. There is room in this world for both sorts, so let's just keep it that way.
Caroline, UK


I might very well ask in reply, How relevant is television, film, radio and the concept of "news" in the 21st century?

Walt O'Brien, USA
I might very well ask in reply, How relevant is television, film, radio and the concept of "news" in the 21st century. I haven't had either a TV or radio for a decade and a half, and have been to exactly 2 films in the past decade. Have I missed out? If I need to hone my brain a bit I dig into my Norton anthologies or pick up the "American Poetry Review" or pick up a TLS or LRB to see what Muldoon or Heaney have written lately. We persist in chopping down our seed trees for culture and critical thought, then wonder why our kids are so stupid, greedy, and chimp-like in their tastes and motivations, and the quality of their lifestyle and ethics. You can't have it both ways. Pop culture is a sordid cottaging rendezvous in a bus station restroom, while works of art are the proverbial flight to Paris with one's enamorata, presentation of mink, champagne, and a diamond proposition of marriage.
Walt O'Brien, USA

William Blake's Tiger, Tiger turned me on, I love Robert Burns, Oscar Wilde, Maya Angelou, and I write dark Gothic poetry and lyrics myself. Life is a drag without poetry.
Morgan O'Conner, U.S.A.

I was lucky enough to be taught by a famous poet some years ago. He suggested that we have moved from spoken poetry to music in the past number of decades, and I think he had a point. Could it be argued that the best modern poets are those in pop groups? Could we not say that The Beatles produced fine poetry, which also had mass appeal? Many of us can recite plenty of verse, it's just that we've learned it from the radio instead of reading it.
Claire, London, UK


Much poetry is garbage
Some poetry is crap
But the poetry of Shakespeare
Charts life; like a well-drawn map

John Brownlee, England
Poetry; the sound bite of the soul
The sound bite of the heart
The distilled and heady essence
That keeps man and beast apart

Much poetry is garbage
Some poetry is crap
But the poetry of Shakespeare
Charts life; like a well-drawn map.

I am not a poet (as can be seen) but I much appreciate good poetry and wish success to every poet who drags, from soul and experience, truths which are then set down in a succinct poetic form for all to enjoy.
John Brownlee, England

What are heavy?
Sea sand and sorrow.
What are brief?
Today and tomorrow.
What are frail?
Spring blossoms and youth.
What are deep?
The ocean and truth.
C. Rossetti, London

Can I make a quick correction to Roger Sayer, Seattle, USA's contribution? Blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter (such as Shakespeare often uses) and not much modern poetry at all is written in this idiom.
Sue Thomas, Cambridge, UK

A poem is no use at all,
It's not an attractive thing,
It merely messes words about,
To give a pleasant ring.
Anthony, England


I do not pretend to understand every poem that I read

F. William Weaver, Lubbock, TX USA
As a physical chemist poetry soothes the savage beast in me. I do not pretend to understand every poem that I read. Nor do I re-read poems the same way each time. I find poetry can be like a chameleon, changing meaning from time to time. Like in science I love the discovery process. My favourite living poet is Mary Oliver, an American.
F. William Weaver, Lubbock, TX USA

Poetry has the unique ability to transcend gender, place, and time to allow one human mind to speak to another and share what it is to struggle and live. Poetry is the concentrated essence of language and is as valuable today as 100 years ago. Poets such as Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou, and Nikki Giovanni continue to provide us with beautiful poems that, I am certain, will stand the test of time.
Angela Kinder, Tampa/USA


Poetry enlightens the soul and uplifts a person's well-being

Faris Kasim, Pakistan
It is because of poetry that thousands of people on this Earth cling to sanity. Poetry enlightens the soul and uplifts a person's well-being. That being said, do people really have the time to read and compose poetry in our ever-changing and hectic world? Some do and they should be appreciated more than anyone else.
Faris Kasim, Pakistan

The arts are presided over by a bunch of talentless leftists whose idea of creativity is simply to push the boundaries of perversion. It has nothing to do with real life anymore and oddly enough the rest of us proles aren't interested. Hopefully the intellectuals are happy in their self-congratulatory little circle. I just hope the average Briton isn't funding it.
Alex Chiang, Brisbane, Australia

A favourite poem for the celebration of poetry would be a sonnet by William Shakespeare. Reading the sonnets for the celebration of life and beauty is a joy. If one reads the sonnets there is news of humanity. Read what is best, joy of the beauty of the Bard.
Catharine Hannover, England


A good is poem is one that can have unlimited interpretations. It touches the heart and scratches the mind

Albert P'Rayan, Kigali, Rwanda
As a lecturer in English language and literature I enjoy reading poetry. I've got my poems published in magazines. In the modern world there are very few individuals who enjoy reading poetry and listening to poetry reading. Quite unfortunately, people who write poems and enjoy reading poems are not considered pragmatists. A good is poem is one that can have unlimited interpretations. It touches the heart and scratches the mind. Just because only a thin percentage of people can enjoy poetry we cannot say that it is not apt for twenty-first century. Poetry is about life and it cannot be done away with. It is rich and is wonderful. Poetry will never die.
Albert P'Rayan, Kigali, Rwanda

Poetry can be as bland and disengaging as some pop music. We should not think of poetry as higher or greater simply because it is poetry. It has to be powerful and reach people to have any lasting impact. That is why Rudyard Kipling's "If" and Dylan Thomas' "Do not go gentle into that good night" are so well known and well loved. They speak to people about the values and experiences they have.
Godfrey Joseph, UK

Modern poetry (i.e. blank verse) is like modern art; one can never tell if its really worth anything. It seems to me that anybody who writes his or her thoughts down with broken lines and weird spaces can claim to be a Poet.
My definition of modern Poetry is: 'insufferable prose recited with a whine'. I can't stand the sappy stuff (I bet with a bit of rearranging the above could be made to pass for a poem).
Roger Sayer, Seattle, USA


Poetry is the one of the fundamentals behind the richness of the English language

Gavin Pearson, Detroit, USA
Poetry is the one of the fundamentals behind the richness of the English language and should be celebrated accordingly. It is relevant for people of all ages and social standing. Do not forget, poetry takes many forms from pure poetry to the lyrics that are sung in all forms of popular music - a fine example being Rap.
Gavin Pearson, Detroit, USA

Poetry is dying! Thank God, I hated reading that stuff in my literature classes. It's a useless boring form of entertainment.
David, USA

Poetry's for girls.
Ed Bayley, USA (English)

I'm ashamed to say that I cannot think of the name of one living poet. That does not mean that I do not like poetry, per se, but my tastes are somewhat more traditional: I actually like my poetry to rhyme at least once (or is it twice!) per stanza, have a discernible meter, and doesn't try to be so clever that it isn't. I'm sure they'll all enjoy listening to each other, and that's just fine!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

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