Too Much Culture

Notes from the Hey Festival

Posted in Uncategorized by tneenan on 06/06/2010

Perceval Graves was taking question from the crowd at the annual Houssman lecture at the Hay Festival last night. For those of you who were sadly unable to attend, here are some edited highlights of his musings on poetry.  

What is the future of poetry?

It is my firm belief that poetry will get smaller and smaller until this: “W” could eventually be considered a poem. It is my firm belief that one day a poem could fit into the palm of your hand. Poetry is constantly evolving, I’ve heard talk of a number eventually being considered a poem, but this may be a step too far.

What is poetry’s role, now?

Because poetry is so mercurial it can literally have any role you chose to use it for. The other day I wanted to order some of that printer toner, so I sent a letter to the stationers in the form of a sonnet. They didn’t quite understand it, now I have all black toner and no colour toner. It is fine, I can print things out, but if I want to print off some pictures from my digital camera I got for Christmas, they all look quite murky. I know you can print them off in the shop, but it is very fiddly. But to be fair in the end everyone was very helpful. So I can’t really complain, and the pictures do look lovely. Anyway, in answer to your question: Aldous Huxley. Sorry, what was the question?

What is a poet?

A poet isn’t a person, it is something which is inside a person and only certain people. To use a fitting analogy, if a person is the food I leave in Jasper’s bowl, the poet would be the eye medicine I mash into the food. And I suppose taking the analogy further, the poetry created would be the sight which Jasper has from his left eye, and the reader is the Vet, who says it is cruel to keep such an old dog alive in such pain, and the publisher is the nurse who pulls “that face” whenever I wheel Jasper into the surgery because he’s been out in the road again.

Is poet still a legitimate career for young writers?

It is up to each and every young writer to create the legitimacy with his own writing. To forge his own path. There have always been poets and there have always been lovers of poetry. But when did people start throwing cans into people’s gardens? When did that become something it was okay to do? Beer cans, cans of pop, almost one a day. I used to like going into the garden, now I’m just worried what I’ll find there.”

Will poetry books become a thing of the past?

Twenty years ago I would have said no, but the internet can do anything now. I got a new computer, it’s amazing, it checks your spelling for you, well I never. The other day I was looking at one of those sites. Then this thing popped up, I clicked on it, and now I can’t get the darn thing to switch on. Oh well.

The Hey festival runs until Sunday.

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