Hello there. Hope you’re feeling well today.As regular readers will know I’ve never hidden my general lack of interest with regard to poetry. Due I’d argue to the fact that when I was a teenager a slim volume of poetry cost the same price roughly as a thicker novel. I have recently gone for a “try before you buy” approach in listening to a poetry before actually buying the book. It’s worked with Dylan Thomas but is admittedly hit and miss.
So when I saw that Simon Armitage was trending on Twitter my first reaction was “Who”? I found out that he was the new Poet Laureate.
Now before I go on let me make it clear I’ve never read or listened to a poem by Mr Armitage. For all I know he might be brilliant or absolutely rubbish. I’ve no idea.
But it was my initial reaction that set me thinking. If we want more people to get into poetry surely you’d want a poet that would be prepared to move outside the poetry world. To mix in with other people who not only have a limited knowledge of poetry but don’t care either. If you after all are supposed to be the nation’s figurehead for the form that is poetic shouldn’t you do everything you can to make it better known to the wider poetry not bothered British public? That’s why I return to a poet I do like John Betjeman. Who I would argue is the only poet in my lifetime who did this.
So what’s the Betjeman tenplate that a poet laureate should follow?
Write satirically: Betjeman was able to focus on the humour of everyday life and write about it. Thus making it relatable to the listener/reader.
Write accessibly: What you didn’t need with Betjeman were historical/humorous references to make the poem completely understandable. Whether you were a Politician or working in a petrol station you would instantly get a Betjeman poem.
Have public interests other than poetry: Betjeman campaigned for Victorian Architecture to be kept other than having them demolished and replaced by office blocks. That’s what made him different. To be interested in architecture is for most people a yawn, but to champion something that was under threat made it something we could understand.
Do things you wouldn’t expect a poet to do: Betjeman appeared on Parkinson in the seventies. It was the biggest British TV chat show of it’s time. No one considered it odd then. Do you think Mr Armitage would be able to go on Graham Norton or Johnathan Ross?
He also visited the set of Coronation Street. Comparing it at the time with Dickens (possibly true then. Definitely not now). Again something that would be considered odd for Simon Armitage to do now.
So perhaps with the post becomes available again the Betjeman model should be followed in the recruitment of the next recipient. If only to help make poetry more accessible
It worked before.
Until the next time.