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Jeremy Paxman: poets must start engaging with ordinary people

Posted on June 2, 2014 at 1:35 PM

Jeremy Paxman, the broadcaster and journalist, said poetry had 'rather connived at its own irrelevance'

Poetry must “raise its game”, Jeremy Paxman has said, as he urged poets to start engaging with ordinary people rather than only addressing each other.

The broadcaster and journalist called for an “inquisition” in which “poets [would be] called to account for their poetry” appearing before a panel of the public where they would have to “explain why they chose to write about the particular subject they wrote about, and why they chose the particular form and language, idiom, the rest of it, because it would be a really illuminating experience for everybody”.

Paxman, who announced last month that he was stepping down from Newsnight, was speaking after judging this year’s Forward prize for poetry.

He described the artform as a “delightful thing” but said it had “rather connived at its own irrelevance”.

In the speech, seen by The Guardian, he said he wished poetry “would raise its game a little bit, raise its sights”, and “aim to engage with ordinary people much more”.


Praising the contenders for the prize – Colette Bryce, John Burnside, Louise Glück, Kei Miller and Hugo Williams – he said there was a “whole pile of really good poems here”.

However, he expressed concern that poets more generally seem to talk to each other rather than the public.

He added. “I think poetry has really rather connived at its own irrelevance and that shouldn’t happen, because it’s the most delightful thing.”

Categories: Poetry, Cultural News

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