Review

Poems of the Decade

Published by Forward Books
Price £9.95

Cover of Poems of the Decade: abstract colored 10

Each year, a distinguished panel of judges uses its own initiative and reputation to choose nations best poems submitted for entry to the Forward Poetry Prizes. This indicates that the selection of 120 poems in this book (selected by William Sieghart, the prize's founder) should reflect the type of poetry preferred and popular in Britain today.

Judging from this selection, the nations most admirable form of art is in trouble. Out of 120 poems and just as many poets, only a handful is worth noting.

Yet from many poets included here, one mostly gets poems on gardening, bus riding, and airports. This selection shows that poetry has become plain, exclusively narrative and tediously descriptive. Poems seem to describe either a specific event (as exciting as a bus ride or a phone call), or a specific scenery (such as a man sitting in a garden or family watching a film). Such poetry fails to give any point or thought below the surface.

The handful of poems worth reading is Burnside's Asylum Dance, Donaghy's My Flu, Farley's Treacle, Muldoon's Wire and only a few others. These really do give the reader a new and fresh angle of looking at things and thoughts surrounding us. They are truly modern and motivating, appealing and memorable.

Conversely, poems like Sylvia Dann's Back to Nature and Benjamin Zaphaniah's Man to Man, fail to show any quality, either poetic or imaginative. Indeed, there are few less known poets that show talent, but regrettably they are given almost no public or media attention.

Due to the laziness of many writers and apprehension of many readers, most poems of today are simple. The readers are afraid they may not understand the poem, and the writers fear their poetry will not be widely read in such a case. Poetry, as a result, loses its uniqueness and becomes too ordinary and monotonous, to plain and obvious.

Obviousness is in itself a finished idea and requires no elaboration in a poetic form. An obvious thought or an image is superfluous in a poem. Writing so plainly, as many do in this book, is simplifying and falsifying the reality, which is in itself quite complex. Reality is not simple and straightforward, so why should poetry be. The purpose of poetry is pushing the boundaries of imagination, not taking things for granted.

For a poet, a bird may not be a bird, word not a word. The poets in this collection fail to see this, and write only poems that, in their opinion, satisfies the public on the first reading. Forward pride themselves on most of the poems included here, but considering the lack of profound quality of poetry included, one may with good reason question the significance of Forward Prize overall.

 

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