Poetry and audience


Sir, – Caitriona O’Reilly, critic and poet, mentions “the haunting, pervasive anxiety that no one actually cares about or reads much contemporary poetry, except the poets writing it” (“Technical mastery and peculiar intimacy: new Irish poetry”, The Ticket, May 9th).

I suspect that she’s right, and for a very good reason: most of the modern poetry that we hear or read is fairly uninviting to ordinary folk like me.

To me it’s basically prose (elegant, haunting, assured, rich in metaphor, and all that) which is chopped into individual lines. Take out the line-by-line structure and what you have is, in essence, a mini-essay for those who like well-written mini-essays, although plenty of people (particularly poets) will disagree with this contention.

Are there any current poets writing verse that does rhyme and scan?

I can still remember many lines from poems of my Leaving Cert course all those years ago, and the only reason that they come back to me is because their rhythm and scansion facilitated learning and retaining them. And there is great satisfaction and pleasure in recalling them.

Poems that rhyme and scan are easy for children of all ages to learn, to appreciate, and to retain (why else do we start them on nursery rhymes?), and I’d like them to retain a positive attitude to poetry. Much of the contemporary output seems to me to be user-hostile, so if it’s only being read by poets, and perhaps the occasional critic, well, that’s just fine by me. – Yours, etc,



Co Waterford.