There’s an interview conducted by Brook Emery with Australian Poet and ex-publisher Ron Pretty. Its well worth a read but I really connected with this part of one of Ron’s answers:
I am frustrated by the fact that there is so much poetry happening at present, but most of it is hidden from the majority of Australians. I don’t think poetry is so much an unpopular art as an unknown one. So many people don’t know how to respond to it because they’ve had so little exposure to it since they left school, where many of their experiences with it were not happy ones.
This gels with some of my recent experience. I see Slam Poetry making some noise and selling out shows, I’m subscribed to a number of feeds and twitter accounts that keep me appraised, but I have an interest so its always hard to judge just what the wider perception is.
My experience observing poetry taught in High School ( I relief teach) has shown me an art form haphazardly taught and heavily reliant on both the skill and interest of the teacher – the emphasis on it being a vehicle for teaching Poetic/ English techniques.
In terms of support from newspapers/media sites it doesn’t appear to be much better. I can remember whinging on Twitter about how the poem presented in one of our online daily news sites seemed to come secondary to the placement of the advert that appeared in the centre of the page destroying the poem’s formatting.
By way of contrast I am subscribed to the Guardian UK’s poetry feed and they manage to put out one poetry related article a day it seems in addition to featuring poems of new poets. They also seem to give a damn about the way poetry is formatted. For sure there’s more people in the UK but no doubt proportionately the audience that enjoys poetry there is small as well. But they seem, on this limited sample, to care.
I wonder if gender plays a significant role. Australia is already one of the most polarised of the OECD countries when it comes to gendered perceptions ofr eading (children as young as four identifying reading as a feminine activity).
What’s your perception? Do enough Australian’s care about poetry? What’s the downside to a culture that thinks poetry is irrelevant?