Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Forward shortlist

And so the Forward shortlist has been published. Or has it? The news seems to have been buried beneath provocative soundbites from celebrities, replies from famous poets and the dubious quoting of diminishing sales figures for poetry, using stats that don't include readings, small publishers' websites or festivals, where many books of contemporary verse change hands.

The media annually whip up a supposedly new crisis in the popularity of poetry, asking whether the genre is just written for an elite. In fact, it plays a key role in the lives of millions of people all over the U.K.. We use it to mark the major milestones in our lives: I've never been to a funeral without poetry. Meanwhile, if pressed, even my geekiest friends will admit to heartbroken teenage scrawlings. Whenever emotion stretches language, we reach for verse.

As present-day poets, our responsibility is to build on those existing foundations, to show that poems can accompany people on a daily basis. This issue brings me back to the Forward shortlist, because an anthology will be published in due course and soon become one of the best-selling poetry books of the year. Will it be a valid portrayal of recent developments in the U.K. scene? Will the contents manage to grab new readers by the heart? Has yet another opportunity been missed or finally been taken...?

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