Poetry in motion

National Poetry Day approaches once more – October 7th – and I thought I would once more organise some special staff recommends by getting colleagues to pick favourite bards so we could have a couple of shelves of our staff recommends filled with poetry reviews. And once more I got the same handful of people who contributed last year and the year before that… And a whole pile of people muttering pathetic excuses such as ‘I haven’t read poetry since school’ or ‘I don’t like poetry’. Don’t like poetry? That’s like saying ‘I don’t like music’ – how can you honestly say you dislike every type of poetry and every poet? There must be something you find to your taste; it’s the widest church of literature in every culture in the world. To find this sort of attitude in a bookstore is so depressing and reinforces the fact that we need events like National Poetry Day to raise awareness of verse.

Poetry is our oldest form of story-telling (at least word-based stories – cave paintings may precede them); we’ve been composing, speaking and singing verse for literally thousands of years, through the rise and fall of entire civilizations, from elegant short Chinese poems to epics such as the Iliad or Beowulf. Before the spread of the written word, before the media and easy communications there were wandering poets. Crafting often well-known tales into a verse structure made it easier for the bard to memorise enormous chunks of narrative – they held quite astonishing numbers of data in their head, something few modern humans can match because we rely on exo-somatic memory (memory outside of the brain which held them, from a paper-note to a book to a digital database).

But you want to know something? Poetry is everywhere. I mean that literally. It’s in sunlight sparkling on water, the rhythmic sound of car wheels going over bumps, the purrs of a cat, the breathing of a loved one. And for those who told me ‘they don’t like poetry’ I say OPEN YOUR BLOODY EYES AND SOUL! And if that’s getting to metaphysical for you – pardon me, it’s the poet in me (or perhaps the peyote in me?) – then here’s one for you: if you genuinely don’t like poetry then take every good album you have in your collection and burn it. Burn your Beatles, your Hendrix, set your Suzanne Vega alight and incinerate your Mozart, because they are all poetry. Don’t believe me? Then I feel sorry for you because you truly don’t get the music in your collection and you really don’t get the world.