Niall O'Sullivan

high brow, low brow, none of that stuff in the middle

Should most poetry engage most people?

Posted on | October 16, 2017 | No Comments

I was thinking about the Adrian Mitchell quote, “Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people”

Adrian Mitchell was a very fine poet and human being, but I like this quote less and less the more I see it.

Most people have little need for poetry, therefore, they’re going to ignore most poetry. Popular poetry, the kind that aims to be read by “most people” is absolutely fine, like popular music and films about big robots that can change into vehicles and beat the shit out of each other.

But if a person engages with an art form in a less casual sense, their tastes will become more refined and personal and the kind of poetry they like will probably be less appealing to most people but more appealing to them. Isn’t this the same with art, music, novels and theatre?

The quote is used in a sense that there is a great untapped audience that we can get to if we could only speak to them. I find that this audience is already well served by their favourite song lyrics or by the popular poetry that’s already out there. Sure, there’s always room for more popular poetry for all those that want a bash at it but the thought of “most poetry” trying to appeal to “most people” is a profoundly depressing one.

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