Isn’t poetry difficult and dull? Though the population contains a small percentage of poetry lovers, the idea that poetry isn’t pleasurable is all-pervasive. It’s easy to blame our education system (and it certainly has a lot to answer for with regards to the seed of this idea being planted) but the truth is, there’s a lot of difficult, dull poetry out there. I’ve spent years going to poetry readings and struggling to hang on to the will to live while yet another poet drones their way through yet another (dull, or difficult) poem and just praying last orders won’t be called before they finish. (You wonder why poets have a reputation for being drinkers? Can you imagine how much bad poetry they have to listen to in the line of duty, and how polite they have try to be about it?) How hard is it, do you think, to convince the people (who on the whole consider poetry difficult and/or dull) that The Marlowe Papers is neither? Here’s my attempt:
I tell people ‘just think of it as a normal novel, but the lines don’t quite go to the end of the page’. Generally, it seems to hold that when a person is prepared to overcome initial wariness and just give it a go, they are quickly hooked and become oblivious to the fact they’re reading poetry. Nevertheless, I know the fact that The Marlowe Papers is in verse is, for many people, rather off-putting. In some cases, no amount of reassurance will overcome the severe distrust of poetry engendered by a standard British education. I asked my husband ‘how do I overcome people’s fear of poetry?’ and he answered ‘People aren’t afraid of poetry. They just think it’s going to be boring. Or difficult. That they won’t be able to understand it, and they’ll feel stupid.’
The Marlowe Papers isn’t that kind of poetry at all (and it really is a novel, albeit it one broken into poem-shaped chunks). But, given the majority of people find they are pleasantly surprised once they overcome their initial resistance, how to persuade people to give it a try?