Do you think poetry ignores more or fewer people now than when you first started writing?

Way back, I said and wrote, "Most people ignore poetry because most poetry ignores most people." And at that time I'm sure it was true in England: published poetry was very much the prerogative of male, middle class, university-educated poets. Now there have always been a lot of poets who are none of these things, but they weren't getting a shake, they weren't getting the exposure, they weren't getting their books published. Well, luckily, Michael Horovitz came along in 1959 and ran a magazine called New Departures, and then started a sort of circus for poets to go round performing, called Live New Departures, and that led to a huge explosion of poetry readings in this country. There were very few when I was young: there were about ten poetry readings in Britain a year. And now there are thousands. And this has led to an expansion of poetry in all senses - I mean we have all kinds of poets being published, and some of them are intellectual and academic, but not all of them by any means, and that's right because the days when only very difficult poetry could be published are gone, are gone for good, and now we know that a poet can be quite clear in what he or she is saying or they can be very complicated and it doesn't matter if the poetry's good. As long as the poetry's good. As long as the poetry's good there's room for everyone - there's room for all good poets, whatever kind - whatever belief, whatever colour, whatever sexual preference, whatever - you know. There's room for everyone.


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