Thursday, October 27, 2011
The Shindig in Leicester this week has been reported on by other bloggers, and everyone's commented on the strength of the open-mic slot. I must have listened to around thirty poets read that evening, and every one was worth listening to. It's interesting that, according to Kathleen Bell, one of the De Montfort Creative Writing team who have done so much to engender these type of events in Leicester, that the open-mic standard has improved as time has gone on, as less experienced poets have learned from the more experienced ones. To me, the whole phenomenon says a great deal about the contemporary poetry scene. Poetry is a participation sport; most readers are also writers of poetry, and the whole scene is democratic and unhierarchical. But this is not to say that standards have to be driven down to the lowest common denominator; there's no reason why that should happen, and the evidence of the Leicester readings is quite the opposite, with people generally trying to raise their game to keep up with others. Despite attempts by initiatives like The Forward Prize and now the Salt Best British Poetry (more on that one later), to establish canons and hierarchies, it seems that, at the cutting edge, the poetry scene is open, participatory and supportive. Long may it stay that way!