How exciting it must be for you, dear readers, to see that I am opening this blog with some statistics: poetry sales in the UK amount to less than 2 per cent of the market. If you take out the “dead poets”, the genius of rhyming comedy, Pam Ayres and the anthologies such as “A Thousand Poems about Cats”, you are left with very little indeed. The marketeering literatti place the average reader of poetry in the over fifty age bracket. My revolutionary scheme to provide a book of poetry with every new pair of spectacles has so far not yet been approved by parliament. Opponents suggest that this would deter people from attending eye tests.
Now, far greater minds than mine receive money to write about all this, bemoaning attention spans, social media and “uncultured” education in schools. Of course, some of this might be true but there could be other reasons. This is my list:
Visibility. Out of sight is out of mind. In my youth I used to race bicycles. Once a rider gets away and round a bend and disappears it does not matter how hard you try. That thread of awareness has snapped. Once a generation loses contact with an element of culture it has no continuance. Country dancing, croquet, smallpox and the eating of rabbits ( in the UK) have all gone that way.
Now, I hear you say – you promised a nice juicy list. Well, just be grateful that I keep my lists short. VISIBILITY is the entire issue. No one will like every poet. Having rubbed shoulders with some real “up the backside” airy fairy poets I can report that I have not liked many of them. My favourite poet is an Indie like me. Poetry has machine gunned itself in the feet and both legs with its inaccessible elitism. Dear old Pam Ayres, Benny Hill and popular music composers have kept the comatosed patient alive in the public mind. Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond et al have done more to keep the concept of poetry alive than any poet laureate. We poets must remember that this is a world where in many households either a stereo playing music or a TV playing across 300 channels occupies the whole environment while anyone is awake. It has been a revolution that the “Greats” could not have shouted down. OK Mr Tennyson – your friend died and you wrote a poem – so what? There’s been 4 murders and a car crash since lunch time on channel 18 and no one is writing a soppy poem about that!”
My own view is that poets have still got the guns. They have the ristretto fix in the internet café. The new media of music and video mix is there to be taken. Folks may never again sit under the summer boughs with a book of verse. They will pick up a phrase or an idea if it is delivered to their antennae and we fellow poet citizens of that same world put it there for them.
And the point is…
My poetry collection “I Threw a Stone” is FREE on Amazon this weekend, Sat 28th and Sun 29th January. It is available in Kindle format and has an active table of contents (so you can skip between poems). It also includes a link to a FREE MP3 audiobook – with all the poems read by me. This can be played on your Kindle too – so you can read or just sit back and listen. For a sample click here.