I am in a new town, in a bookshop and I am here once a year. That means I naturally gravitate towards the only bookshop and have seen how poetry has gone from the first floor, to the front of store on an island display to an almost complete eradication of it.
I got on my horse in the bookshop, and in my usual speak before I shoot mode, I demanded to know where the poetry was. A very embarrassed bookseller (can we call them that in the big chains? I mean how much does a weekend kid know about reading books?) took me to the poetry section. I’d like to say it was on full show but after circumnavigating the breath of God, the name of God, the leap of faith and the over spill car park we came to one bay of poetry. The bookseller apologised stating that the poetry used to be on full show in three bays and a island by the shop front but that all that white paper was putting people off. They felt in the present economic and political climate that any free thinking would get people down. ‘I mean, look at John Clare,’ said the bookseller, ‘Poor bugger’. We nodded sagely at each other and as he left I gave him the foot of God up his arse. We need poetry now more than ever, we need to turn our eyes on the pure and impure as Hugh MacDiarmid did in a Glass of Pure Water (go and listen to it). Several decades on MacDiarmid’s fears have passed. Government is capitalism and all land is owned. John Clare, poor bugger. The rest of us, silly buggers for letting it happen. We need poetry, like we need a swift kick up the arse from the foot of God.