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Yesterday, throughout the land, People scanned and scanned and scanned, Trying to make their lines all fit, Trying to do their little bit, So that, on National Poetry Day,

Yesterday, throughout the land, People scanned and scanned and scanned, Trying to make their lines all fit, Trying to do their little bit, So that, on National Poetry Day,

They could stand with pride and say:

"Today I really did my best,

With dactyl and with anapaest,

To write a sonnet or an ode,

Which gently as the Avon flowed!"

At least, I blooming well hope you did.

I didn't, myself. I went and hid.

I have this allergy, you see.

I get a rash from poetry.

So I took my phone from off the hook,

And went to bed with a good book

(A book by whom, you want to know?

Well, I could lie and say Defoe,

Or Dickens, Proust, or Walter Scott,

Whereas in fact I went and got

A Kingsley Amis, long unread,

Which lasted me all day in bed -

Yes, Kingsley not Martin. Père, not fils.

Substance, not shadow. Sheep, not fleece.)

For 20 years, at school and college,

They stuffed me full of useful knowledge,

Such as that the earth is round,

And Nelson was shot and Shelley drowned.

And pi is needed to measure a circle

And Mozart was numbered by Ludwig Köchel.

But one of the things drilled into me

Was the need to worship poetry,

And so we learnt great screeds of stuff

From Tennyson to Roger McGough,

From Milton, Dryden, Gray and Pope

All the way down to Wendy Cope,

And some of it was decent enough,

But most of it is windy guff.

Because, if I am honest, there

Is nothing quite so ordinaire

As stuff like Walter de la Mare -

There, I've said it! I don't care!

Most poetry is a waste of time,

Whether it does or does not rhyme.

I used to think that Dylan Thomas

Had a kind of lyric promise

But now I see that Under Milk Wood

Is all he wrote that was any good.

(I put that in to annoy the Welsh.

He's all they've got. There's no one else.)

Oh, what a lot of time I'll save

Between this moment and the grave

If I renounce all poetry!

O, what a great epiphany!

(The sort of word that poets use.)

No more Plath! No more Hughes!

So, on next year's Poetry Day,

Let us all kneel down and pray:

"Oh, Lord, let no one spout at me

A single bit of poetry!"

Spare us the Byron! Save us the Pope!

Give us at least the faintest hope

That we can pass from dawn to bed

Without a bit of verse being said

In that special poetry voice

With overtones of Alfred Noyes

(A minor poet whom I mention

To gain your overawed attention).

Oh, how I hate the poetry voice!

The tempo stately, the tone so choice,

The terrible whiff of Radio 3,

Donnishly incantatory,

As if the poet was a priest

Presiding at a solemn feast,

The tone so dry, the voice so drear...

To be continued, same time, next year.

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