If You Like Poetry, It’s Your Own Fault

I picked this expression up from an address that Paul Farley made at the Griffin Poetry Awards. He seems to have got it from a poet who in turn remembers hearing it from another poet. If it has passed around so much among poets, I assume that this expression, to an extent encapsulates the vulnerability a poet carries within himself. It reflects perhaps, the urge to defend oneself even by self-ridicule; to declare that this path is a personal choice; and to ask the world in a hoarse whisper, “so what the heck?”

Having said that, it is not surprising that the need for something as subtle as poetry remains baffling to us. My cable guy offers me 129 channels. I get breaking news, global, national and regional, live sports and stock market updates. When celebrity couples break up, I get to know about it even before the couples themselves do. I get essential information; Obama’s great grandfather’s neighbour’s first name and the waiting list for the latest Hermes Birkin bag. Digital clarity. Surround sound. 24X7. I have a mobile phone with 26 games. Strategy, arcade and simulations for those times when I am not talking to any of my 534 contacts. Plus 4 FM channels round the clock with traffic updates on the go. In the car. On foot. In the autorickshaw. On the way to work, billboards tell me about the new karaoke mobile phones, studio apartments, 4-wheel drives and family cars. On an average 600 to 800 mainstream feature films are released in India and waiting for me at the theatres. Not to mention non-mainstream movies and documentaries. I have a collection of 62 classic movies on my hard disk. This year 3600 feature films were submitted for consideration at the Sundance Film Festival. A rock band screams to birth every five minutes somewhere in the world. MTV screens on an average 10-15 new music videos in a week. Penguin, Faber, Random House and Harper Collins together release hundreds of brilliantly written novels every year. Every minute, around 13 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube . A new website is uploaded every minute. Blogs breed like rabbits in cyberspace. In the space of writing this paragraph, a window has popped up six times telling me I have new mail.

These experiences rush past at breakneck speeds every minute, red lights flashing and sirens blaring. They dance before us in startling cuts and split windows like a Kill Bill sequel. Beeping, ringing, alerting and reminding. Windows pop up even in our dreams with strange numbers displaying syntax errors. So where is the place for a quiet bicycle ride on a summer morning?

More importantly, if you still like poetry, whose else’s fault can it be?

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