I have for years avoided reading poetry…

I recently borrowed The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry (B. Morrison & A. Motion, eds. Since the book is published 30 years ago, the contemporaneousness in this case is to my parents generation.) I have found myself far from dispassioned by the poems of, for instance, Seamus Heaney, Ann Steveson, Douglas Dunn, and James Fenton (in whose A German Requiem you’ll discover this distressing pair of lines: “How comforting it is, once or twice a year, / To get together and forget the old times.”)

I have for years avoided reading poetry—and there is a hidden reason behind it. When I was 18 I wrote a set of poems which I send to a publishing house. They were well written, in good style, with strong rhythm, said the rejection letter, but completely void of content. Now I always have thought myself above taking this kind of constructed criticism as a source of devastation—and hence I have not read poetry for the last fifteen years.

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