Sea Jan 2014 001

Some of us stood near the edge or held onto the railings, waiting for the breakers to pelt us with spray and stones. Others stood further back. All waiting, watching. Taking pictures on phones, cameras. As the waves came in we rushed back, squealing, getting splashed. We were safe; elsewhere the wind had done terrible damage, people had lost homes. We were lucky. We stopped what we were doing and went down to the seafront as people in Brighton & Hove do when the waves are high. And when a really big wave rolled in we cried ‘Oooogh!’ and ‘Aaaah!’

Jackie Wills, fantastic poet and friend has been researching attitudes to contemporary poetry. She got me thinking. So on New Year’s Day I asked 3 nearest and dearest, educated, book-loving women  if they read contemporary poetry.They don’t.Why not? I wanted to know. And why did they read prose then? They read to escape everyday life, they said. For the narrative. To be entertained and carried along. Poetry was like a painting or photograph. You had to stand still and really look. You had to work at it. They didn’t have time. And those line breaks in funny places – what was that about? Who should they read nowadays anyway? Yes, there were things about poetry they liked. Playfulness with words. Musicality.They wanted to be entertained but also to be moved. And the poems they did come across didn’t move them. (A challenge to us poets there?)

That got me thinking too. So why do I read? I read books of prose, I read magazines, I read the backs of cereal packets, ads on buses, I read anything. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t read. But mostly I read collections of poetry.Why? I guess it’s like the day the sea was rough. I read to go ‘Oooooh!’ and ‘Aaaah’.I have to stand still to do it. And sometimes it is impossibly hard to make the time. I read poetry because it can be the most thrilling thing in the world. A happy and poetic 2014 to you, dear reader!

Collioure 2013 311