Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Doing the double

Sean O'Brien has added the TS Eliot Prize to his Forward Prize for The Drowned Book, completing a unique double (he ought to do an open top bus tour, balancing the trophy on his head, to complete the football analogy).

As with all awards, there's been much talk about the shortlists and the eventual winner, and if the point of such prizes is to get people talking about poetry, then it's a job well done. I'm not really a big fan of O'Brien's poetry (I think it's that the language is SO unrelentingly murky and menacing, as the Guardian writer puts it, although by the same token that's a strength in other people's eyes), but it seems to me the judges have a pretty thankless task, given that they're going to upset someone whatever they decide.

And that's what I don't quite understand. If you've read a writer, given them a really fair chance, I mean, and still not been grabbed by their work, why should it matter to you if they then go off and win awards? Life's too short to read and write all the poems you WANT to, without wasting time worrying about writers you've decided aren't to your taste. Try it, decide, and move on.

And if this seems like a wet, woolly, live-and-let-live plea, it is. Poetry, like any artform, ultimately comes down to personal taste, so trying to figure out why some people like poetry that I don't would be like trying to understand why some people support Derby County.

1 comment:

Ben Wilkinson said...

I agree, Matt, though making an effort with some of the more difficult poetry out there (for want of better words) will no doubt reap greater rewards than trying to fathom why anyone would want to spend the day at Pride Park.