Yesterday afternoon, Radio Four ran a half-hour programme called Oh! Dad, about film star Robert Mitchum's lifelong addiction to...writing poetry. In fact, I came to it with some trepidation, thinking that maybe they were going to take the "isn't it incredible that a tough guy actor wrote poetry?!" line, to which my prepared answer was "No! He was an actor, for heaven's sake. That in itself should make involvement in some other branch of the arts, if not necessarily likely, at least thoroughly explicable".
Thankfully, Cardiff poet Lloyd Robson did a far better job of putting the programme together than my imagination did, especially when he put Mitchum's writing in context (he was, for example, highly musical too). The only gripe, really, was that we heard so little of the actual poetry, but I'm sure there were good reasons for that. I liked the poem (someone else's) we heard him reading - must listen again and take note of who it was by.
It did all set me thinking about the image that poetry, and poets, have. I don't think it's necessarily any harder for a bloke to 'admit' being a poet than it is for a woman, but I was interested by what Robson said about the kind of man Mitchum was. A loner, but always capable of being (and enjoying being) one of the gang. I think that might be a pretty necessary mindset for any writer, but especially for poets. Is it?