So I pour somebody a glass, wait as they taste and then ask them what they think. At this point, the trouble starts. People feel awkward and embarrassed. They wish they'd never got roped in to coming along to the flash wine tasting and inwardly swear never to return. Replies are immediately qualified, as in "Well, of course, I don't know anything about wine, but... "
As a consequence of the above, I'm forever explaining that the important thing (the fun thing, in fact) is the exploration as you work out what you like and what you don't, the journey towards changing tastes as your knowledge grows thanks to those around you. I also tend to hold a deep-seated grudge against the many sommeliers and wine experts who play on people's insecurities and lack of experience to cultivate a snobbish sense of superiority.
We could easily replace that glass of wine with a poem, that sommelier with a swanky poet, and the snobbishness would still remain. By this, I don't mean I'm an advocate of superficiality. Instead, I'm convinced that we have to encourage the development of taste and knowledge rather than relishing a false sense of belonging to an elite just because we've been lucky enough to have the chance to acquire the veneer of literary or vinous experience.
Putting together a post some weeks ago about ‘Sequences’ (thank you, Pascale Petit, Keith Hutson and Steve Ely) I said something on the lines that we could...