Monday, 3 January 2011

Christmas has brought me the Bloodaxe Book of Poetry Quotations, edited by Dennis O'Driscoll.  It's a little book packed with the pithy, insightful remarks of hundreds of poets and poetry readers.  I've been sitting by the Christmas tree grinning over such as:
'Keats was the first poet I got really excited about.  In fact, I was rather in love with him until I found out how tall he was.'  Wendy Cope
'Watching large poets work with miniaturist forms can be a bit disorienting, like meeting a heavyweight fighter out walking a chihuahua.'  Blake Morrison

The book is divided into themes (What Is It Anyway? Poet At Work.  Profit Motives.  Mad, Bad and Dangerous To Know.  Pushy Poets), which I'm finding irrestible.  And I love the way the poets contradict each other:
'Difficult poetry is the most democratic, because you are doing your audience the honour of supposing that they are intelligent human beings.'  Geoffrey Hill
'So-called difficult poetry is often very rude.  It ignores the presence of the reader.'  Billy Collins

Fantastic insights:
'A poem is partly grace, partly discovery, and partly a conquer another foot of territory from the unconscious.'  Agnes Nemes Nagy
'Poetry is the purest of the language arts.  It's the tightest cage, and if you can get it to sing in that cage it's really really wonderful.'  Rita Dove
'A good poem is almost always about something else, which is why they are hard to write.'  Charles Causley

And then there are remarks which are scarily recognisable:
'...the problem with most poems is that there is too much language chasing too little of an idea.'  Peter Johnson
'Technique is important.  I think that if most people who called themselves poets were tightrope-walkers they'd be dead.'  Michael Longley
Still, cheer up -
'If good poetry is to be written, enormous amounts of bad poetry must be written too, if only because it is important for a serious poet to know what it is she/he is trying not to do.'  Germaine Greer


No comments:

Post a Comment