Letter: Poetry readings no flash in the pan

From Mr Michael Horovitz
Sunday 03 July 1994 23:02

Sir: In 'For crying out loud' (29 June), Michael Glover recycles a notion much hyped of late: that 'public readings of poetry have reached unprecedented levels of popularity'. It is good that a number of publishers and promoters are selling poetry hard, but may I point out that in the summers of 1965 and 1966 two poets' co-operatives filled the Royal Albert Hall to overflowing for readings - and that was when Albert Hall held 8,000-plus.

This has been attempted, but not achieved, several times since. Let us hope such events will succeed again - preferably by means of genuine poetic energies at the grassroots, rather than courtesy of 'marketing values'.

Mr Glover also says that Joseph Brodsky 'reads far too quickly - which is the death of any poetry reading'. This may be true of readers who gabble incomprehensibly, but high-velocity delivery is one of many fine arts perfected by a talented breed of oral bards who have been hard at work across Britain for the past 35 years.

The fast-talking frenzy of the aptly nicknamed 'Manchester Motormouth', John Cooper Clarke, who was for some time a bingo caller, and the rap-, reggae-, punk- and jazz-poetry of such as Jeff Nuttall, Attila the Stockbroker, Jean Binta Breeze, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Benjamin Zephaniah are just as communicative, entertaining and inspired on ultra-fast pieces as on their more relaxed ballads, lyrics, blues, poems et al.

Yours musingly,


New Departures/

Poetry Olympics

London, W11

30 June

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