Saturday, May 26, 2007

"Supping Cuppas With A Poet Laureate"

Above: " The Muse Inspiring The Poet" ( Henri Rousseau)
Have a look below, because it's fascinating stuff; the words of the poets themselves say it all...

" Deprivation" said Philip Larkin "is for me what daffodils were for William Wordworth"
( Hmm...We all need stimulus!!)
and Robert Frost: " Writing Free Verse is like playing tennis with the net down."
( This paints a fascinating picture, doesn't it?!)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge ( crisply) : " Prose, that's words in their best order. And poetry, that's the best words in the best order"
( Would fiction writers agree, I wonder?)
And Carl Sandberg:" Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air..."
( So ARE poets frustrated beings??)
While in the 60's, Bob Dylan, declaring his first love is poetry with his music a mere second, said :" I live like a poet and I'll die like a poet"
( And he's still here, still writing, still singing...)
More recently, Andrew Motion, England's Poet Laureate since 1999 , said tellingly:"Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people"
( Possibly things are improving. Poetry IS more accessible, more "getattable"....)

This week, I met Cheshire's 2006 Poet Laureate, Andrew Rudd. He said how one of his briefs on being elected, was to change the state of affairs that Motion described.
Rudd wanted to take poetry to new places, to encourage folk to enjoy it as part of everyday life. In other words, he wanted to be rid of this ignorance and instead, find acceptance.
Andrew is a friend of Anne, a longtime member of one of my writing groups ; Anne invited him to run a workshop for us at her place. The workshop was fun; through exercises and conversation, we looked at connections between prose and poetry and we left Anne's house with smiles on our faces, with new ideas, with enthusiasm.
To some extent, we'd witnessed the loveliness of poetry, seen it hidden in prose, looked at its lyricism, but we'd also seen poetry "demystified" that we could " handle"it, enjoy and understand it.
Poetry hadn't lost its dignity, but we were more on the way to viewing its usefulness in our daily lives.
And hopefully, our visitor will visit our writing group again sometime...

Andrew Rudd was Cheshire's 4th Poet Laureate; each Laureate is elected by members of the county council and they " reign" for a year. At the end of this period, a book of their work is published. Andrew's collection has the fetching title: " One cloud away from the sky"
The 5th and present Cheshire Laureate is Jo Bell; she's a professional archaeologist, who lives on a narrow boat. She says she started writing poetry to win over difficult classmates; as good a reason as any!
Other Cheshire Laureates were Harry Owen, John Lindsay and Joy Winkler. Interestingly, their poetry is as varied in style and content as their backgrounds.
Andrew told us that there are half a dozen or so similar schemes throughout the country; Cheshire's Laureate was initiated by Literature Development Officer, Liz Newell, several years ago.
Once elected, the Cheshire Poet Laureate is expected to promote poetry within the county, to work on 5 separate commissions about significant events within the county and also to read and judge various poetry competitions.

Originally, England's Poet Laureate was chosen by the reigning king or queen. They would be paid a stipend and be required to pen a poem describing both national and royal events.
The first unofficial PL was Ben Jonson; later Edward Spenser wrote his " Faerie Queen" for Elizabeth 1st. Howvere in 1668, John Dryden was officially declared PL and his appointment was for Life. Later PL's have included Robert Southey, William Wordsworth, Tennyson, Sir John Betjamin and Ted Hughes, from 1984 until his death in 1998.
Andrew Rudd, Jo Bell et al, in their own special way, are clearly following in very special footsteps.


Blogger Jan said...

I have no idea why there's SUCH a huge gap at the end of this I said last time, I need to get my techno act together, hey!

11:35 am  
Blogger Lucy said...

That Rousseau's great! I hadn't seen it before.
I suppose poetry's necessarily a bit rarefied, some will speak more to some people than others. Also depends on one's receptiveness at the time; I've picked something up at the right moment which has had enormous impact, which at another time would have meant nothing at all. I do find the oblique intelligence of poets intimidating at times.
Didn't the P.L. used to get paid in wine, sack I think it was, and what do you know about Alfred Austin?!

12:55 pm  
Anonymous Clare said...

Thanks Jan, very interesting post. I met Andrew Rudd and Harry Owen at Manchester Library once - lovely chaps and really good poets too. It's great what they've done to encourage poetry in the county.

2:19 pm  
Blogger apprentice said...

Great quotes Jan, and such a powerful painting. Really enjoyed that post.

11:41 am  
Blogger Carole said...

Love the painting and a very interesting post, too. I use Coleridge's definition as something to work to; Sandberg's is intriging; Frost is making a good point - there's no such thing as really free verse. I have to admit that I have a bone to pick with our Poet Laureate. His Poetry Archive ignores poems by Tony Harrison and Derek Mahon. I see him as somewhat conservative and pc but then I suppose a Poet Laureate has to be. I have mixed feelings on accessibility. I think some poems need and are worth working on. On the other hand, some are pointlessly obscure. Your Cheshire Poet Laureate idea sounds great. Cheshire is the County of my birth.

12:38 pm  
Anonymous marly said...

I don't remember ever seeing that Rousseau, despite having a passion for him when I was younger. (And at my last trip to MOMA, I still found that his work demanded that I stop and jump into his world.) I really like his vision of the Pleated Muse, though I'm glad that particular one does not visit me.

Alas, I am too opinionated to say anything about poetry, or I will be here all day instead of seeing the parade (mandatory that the mama sees the familial marchers!)

3:10 pm  
Blogger Lizzie said...

Hi, Jan, lovely to hear from you!

1:02 pm  
Blogger Catherine said...

I've never quite liked that Coleridge quote. Why would a prose writer want to pick words that are less than the best? Still, I suppose there is a nugget of truth in that words have to work harder in poetry, I think. In a novel you can have more than a few superflous words that are not noticed as the reader pushes through the story, but in a poem you need to make every word pull its weight. My writing group are very good at pointing out to me every place where I could lose a small word like "the" and improve the poem.

7:16 am  
Blogger Carole said...

I hadn't realised before that Coleridge had said anything about prose. I agree that words have to work harder in poetry.

7:27 am  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

interesting post indeed (of course there are also the quotes about toads and jewels, imaginary or real, and the one..what was it..about a poem should not mean but be).
For me poetry comes from a different place, and it is located; that is, when the poetic nudge comes (which can be all sorts of things) and I attend--there is a listening happening. This doesn't mean that angels are writing my poems and handing them to me; one has to wrestle the words right.
Writing prose, there is a different sense entirely, and it isn't that one isn't choosing words with care and trying to be..witty, or moving, or whatever it is one is about. (sometimes I am confused!). I have always wondered if other writers who work in both forms have anything like this divided sense.
thank you for making me think a bit.

4:21 am  
Blogger Jan said...

I knew nothing re A Austin but was intrigued to read up about him! NOT the most successful of Laureates, was he?!
And I agree so much with you re "the mood of the moment" where poetry is concerned...

Yes it's a superb idea and I hope it goes from strength to strength.

Glad you enjoyed it!

I agree with much of your comments.
And TOO much conservativism ( even if partly deemed necessary) can't do "accessibility" much good...
Where were you born in Cheshire?
I know you're down south nowadays, so wonder where you originated?

I think you should provide a Rap about watching your little Marchers...lots of beat and rhythm etc!!

Hello there!
Hope you're enjoying m'blog!

I hope folk visit your blog to enjoy your own lovely work.
I agree with you re the skilful economy of words in poetry...but I'm sure good fiction writers are more than aware of this too, as I'm sure you agree.

I shall visit your blog ASAP and see if there's any sparkly new poetry!
Hope so!

Your thoughtful words much appreciated.
I like the idea of the "poetic nudge"...that's just right!

9:15 pm  
Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

Fascinating. I've always been partial to the 'best words in best order' myself. (Sorry prose-ers!)
Great to catch up Jan!

7:46 am  
Blogger Carole said...

I was born in Timperley (near Altrincham) and went to school in Sale. My brother's in-laws used to have a bicycle shop in Chester - a lovely place. I remember looking at old-fashioned shops, the zoo and, of course, the Dee.

4:02 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Hello there!
It's always nice seeing your smiley face!

I bet the shop was called " Claude Chrimes"??
This was the name of a very long-established bike shop in the city. As a child, I loved the name...
he presents a very definite image, doesn't he, with a name like that?!
NOW tell me, Carole, does that ring a bell ( a bicycle one, of course...)
Hmm. Hmm.

6:08 pm  
Blogger herhimnbryn said...

The Rousseau for me too. I shall now have to re-read some as I had not seen this before.

I find I can predict my mood by the poetry book I have taken from the shelf

3:31 am  
Anonymous marly said...

Hah! Very amusing! But they did make the front page of the local paper...

6:24 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Good to see you and thoughts echoed re books off the shelf...

Come on, let's see 'em!

2:41 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rudd said...

Thanks for the kind comments, Jan. I really enjoyed the workshop, and then picked up on your Blog through Google alert. I'll be back!

12:05 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Good to see you, Andrew.
I met 2 PL's in virtually a week ( Jo Bell at Salt Museum) so not bad going!

4:55 pm  

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