Sunday, June 7, 2009

I know I shouldn't waste time on these things, but... the BBC's poll for "The Nation's Favourite Poet" presents us with a shortlist "compiled in consultation with The Poetry Society and The Arts Council". I suspect this is a list of poets they think the public might have heard of. Still, it has some amazing ommissions - Chaucer, Shakespeare, Pope and Dryden for example. The living poets are Simon Armitage, Wendy Cope, Roger McGough, Carole-Ann Duffy, Seamus Heaney and Benjamin Zephaniah. That's it. And we're not allowed to have foreigners as favourite poets, unless they're Irish (though there is one American on the list - guess who?). But although the list is bizarre and insular, I'd guess that similar lists made 100, 200 and 300 years ago by the cultural arbiters of the day would also have come up with currently fashionable forebears combined with a bunch of soon-to-be-forgotten contemporaries.

One interesting thing: we're allowed to vote for Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Blake, but... not Shelley. In a way, it's heartening to think that, even now, Shelley's radicalism is too much for the bureaucrats of the poetry establishment.


Ed Baker said...

hey Al, baby:

check the list to see if I am on't!

I had sex with an English girl on a boat on the Chelsea Embankment in 1958!

she was from the Donovan boat next to ours..

THAT do makes me eligible, WHOT?

What rot! is the entire world gone nutz? and:

what if suddenly they discovered that I was the sane one?

Imagine that...

John B-R said...

Alan, if Shelley is too radical, which he probably is, I can only assume that a) the none of the compilers have read Blake past the *Songs* or b) they haven't a clue what he's on about.

There's a positive to this kind of list making, tho, that suddenly occurs to me. At least some versions of poetry must still fall into the category of commodity, eh?

Maybe we should start a futures market???

And Ed, you don't REALLY want to be considered sane, do you?