Bard rigid: poetry in slow motion

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The Independent Culture
Uh oh. Poetry in Action (1.02pm R3). The title implores you to stay awake, while sending you straight to sleep. Poetry isn't just about composing odes to nightingales, it says, it's about real life too, language which describes action, promotes action, darn well lives and breathes the stuff. It makes poetry sound about as interesting as a local councillor pledging to do more about dog dirt in grassy play areas.

The series opens with "Disjointed Palaces". As a prelude to compilations of verse and music about arguments and fighting, guilt and betrayal, we get one related to a more indirect kind of action - acting. This could be interesting: examples of the historical interrelation between drama and verse, or the gulf between reading and histrionics. What we get instead is altogether out of joint: unattributed verse fragments, radio interviews, PG Wodehouse one minute, Brecht the next.

Needless to say "All the world's a stage" is trotted out. A less obvious selection, even a Shakespeare sonnet, put with something the programme lacks entirely, commentary, might have helped the listener to appreciate the drama in verse: for example, John Barton's advice to actors to read the sonnets because "they have the same basic ingredients as all (of Shakespeare's) scenes or long speeches. A situation is reacted to, explored and at the end in some way resolved". Just a thought.