I thought the United States had the hammerlock on extreme political language until the Brexit referendum was decided in Great Britain. Then I discovered we were amateurs when it came to the normally understated British. I had British friends on both sides of the decision for Britain to leave the European Union. The anguish was painful to see, mirrored, perhaps, by the anguish we face this election year in the U.S.
So I turned to British poetry. The British take their poetry much more seriously than Americans do. I happened to visit last year during National Poetry Day, and the entire country seemed to reading poetry, going to readings, and holding poetry book fairs. And British newspapers still print poetry, review it, discuss it, and debate it. And it lasted longer than a single day – it was more like National Poetry Week.
Can you imagine a major network, like NBC or Fox, hold a national vote on America’s favorite poets? In 2014, the BBC did, and with plenty of rules and guidelines. Some 18,000 votes were cast, and first place went to Anglo-American T.S. Eliot. John Donne was in second place; Benjamin Zephaniah was third. Rounding out the Top 10 were Wilfred Owen, Philip Larkin, William Blake, William Butler Yeats, John Betjeman, John Keats, and Dylan Thomas.
Yes, the British take their poetry seriously.
To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.
Photograph by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.