The Point of Poetry

By Joe Nutt

How poetry can teach us about the things in life that really matter

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Book Complete.

Pleased to tell people that I completed the book a couple of weeks ago and it’s now with my editor, Phil Connor. I hope I’ve only given him one real headache, which is to do with copyright and a poem by Sassoon. Considering it’s only 66 words long, “breach of copyright” sounds a bit grand. 

By the time I’d reached the end, I've become more and more convinced the book is genuinely prescient. Other voices are beginning to make a connection between the immanent power in words, and what people decide to do with them in the public sphere. Which is of course where poetry really comes into its own because it’s the only place we road test words to destruction.  

Only yesterday Yvette Cooper chaired a meeting of the home affairs committee and wagged a finger at social media companies, like a nanny who’d never seen Joseph McCarthy in action. Watching her pitched against Simon Milner, Facebook’s Director of Public Policy, was like watching Tracy Beaker debate with Stalin.

My back catalogue for the TES, is sprinkled with things it’s taken months for others to latch onto. I raised the issue about removing education from the political sphere about four years ago and now it’s as common a topic in education publications as Ofsted or low pay. There’s a very popular book about reading being read by teachers at the moment, by a US writer called Doug Lemov in which he says, How do you sustain democracy in a culture where a majority of its citizens can’t read its founding documents? Well when those documents are written in Latin Doug…

I’m hoping I can get The Point of Poetry out there before anyone else makes what to me is an obvious connection between anyone’s capacity to defend themself from those who would use language to manipulate them, and their appreciation of what words can be made to do. 

One of the poems in the book is just perfect for the time of year…
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.

If you don’t know it, I’d encourage you to find and enjoy Hardy’s The Darkling Thrush. It will put a lot of things on both sides of the choppy Atlantic into perspective. 

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