Poets prefer marmalade

An anthology that states it publishes the ‘best’ poetry written today publishes the best poetry written today. There are a range of poetry awards corresponding to the range of poetry being written. It is necessary to categorise poets. All good young poets win Eric Gregory awards.

Black poets are usually performance poets. ‘Performance poetry’ has become a derogative term. ‘Innovative’ poets are usually male, white and sardonic. Poets who use the lower case i are pretentious. ‘Mainstream’ poets are snooty. All poets listen to Radio 4.

If you’re not a white poet you should send your work to a specialist publisher. If you’re not a white poet then you are writing for a niche market. Poetry festivals programme a diverse range of poets. Poets wear sharp suits.

There are as many critics of poetry in performance as there are of poetry on the page. Poets who mostly perform are as respected as poets who mostly publish. Poets who write for the page are bad readers of their work. Poets who learn their work for performance are more interested in performance than in writing. Poets who read are giving priority to the page above performance. Reading is not performance. Performance is not reading. Poets eat shredded wheat.

Rejection after rejection results in poets losing confidence in their own voice. Rejection after rejection breeds ambitious, bold poets who write just the way they wish to. Rejection after rejection results in poets adjusting the way they write in order to be accepted. Rejection after rejection stops poets writing poetry. If you want to get published make sure you write poems that look like poems. Poems look like dandelion clocks. You can learn a poem by blowing its fluff to the wind.

Mentorship is offered to all poets of promise. There’s money in poetry. If you want to be a poet you should do an MA in creative writing. Poets have dodgy knees.

Poets are thick-skinned and dislike freckles. Poets have good dress sense. Poets are middle class. Poets know when to use apostrophes. Working class poets write short, funny poems about their lives.

Publishers shape the poetry that is written in this country. Publishers shape the poetry that is published in this country. Censorship is an inevitable by-product of selection. Small, independent publishers sell as many books as Faber & Faber. Poets have regular haircuts.

There is no ‘mainstream’ poetry. The fact there are several ‘streams’ enriches the poetry scene. British poetry is more conservative than American poetry. Experimentation is actively discouraged. The labels we use to catagorise poets have more positive than negative associations. Poets can hold their breath underwater for ages.

Poems written for performance rhyme and are easily understood on first hearing. Poems written for performance are often political. Poems written for performance sprawl and have irregular line lengths. The spoken word scene is diverse because there are no gatekeepers at its entrance.

Poems written for the page are formally tight. Poems written for the page need to be read several times. The craft of writing poems for the page is superior to the craft of writing poems for performance. ‘Mainstream’ poetry often references Greek mythology.

You can tell that ‘Innovative’ poets don’t believe in the poetic ‘voice’ as they write by cutting up books and instruction manuals and inserting the word ‘Derrida’ now and then. Poets do press-ups.

A poem that works on the page will work in performance. A poem that works in performance will not always work on the page. A poem that works in performance but not on the page is not a good poem. To perform is to be fake. Performance poets are shouty. Poets are typewriters.

There is an equal split of male to female poets writing poetry in the UK. There is an equal split of male to female poets being published in the UK. There is an equal split of male to female poets publishing poetry in the UK. Poets (particularly the innovative ones) can never find the scissors.

Poets self-publish their work when it’s not good enough to be accepted by a publisher. Publishers publish poetry that is good. All good poetry is published. ‘Good’ is not subjective.

There are too many poets. There are not enough poets. Poets wear red shoes. Poets prefer mittens to gloves.



Commissioned by the Broadsheet, launching the Exeter Poetry Festival. I’m performing/talking on the 4th October at an event exploring tribalism in poetry, the supposed borders between different sorts of practice and the usefulness or otherwise of labels such as ‘mainstream’, ‘experimental’ and ‘performance’.

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