Very, Very, Quite Contrary

‘I’m allergic to “light verse”, because it seems a betrayal of the purpose of poetry.’

So said Robin Robertson in an interview published last month in The Guardian, which you can read here. I find myself vaguely appalled that someone can be so certain that poetry has one single purpose.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.*

I do like a bit of ‘light verse’ and parodies – I love parodies. I’ve just been enjoying ‘Harold Pinter’s Nursery Rhymes’ by the Private Eye satirist Craig Brown. Very funny. If poetry has one purpose then surely it’s to provoke a strong emotional reaction? In that case, a theatre full of people laughing so much that they cry fulfils the criterion. Well done, Mr Brown. Come on, Mr Robertson.

*From Snow by Louis MacNeice

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