Friday, 2 December 2016


Famous people become commodities when they die. Their discourse, their story so to speak, can be shaped to suit the ends  of others. Look at how John Lennon has been shaped, or Bob Marley, or any of a hundred others.
This has been especially true of poets, whose stock can rise or fall according to the needs of the current age. You only have to visit Stratford Upon Avon to experience the full flowering of the heritage industries.
It was thoughts like this that led to this post's poem.

Poets are better when they're dead.
Personal life picked over
for proof of something or other.
Private papers pillaged, not burned,
to provide the evidence
for opposing intellectual arguments.

A dead poet is a commodity,
clay to be shaped by critics fingers.
A really good one can sustain an industry:
biographers, academics, guide books, guides,
taxi drivers [who picked the poet up regular like]
and houses bought for a grateful nation.
Then simplistic television,
built around the available footage,
that somehow misses the point.

Yet within the clamour,
if you are patient enough,
the poet's words will retain their truth.
I think that we are in danger of losing sight of the real treasure, the beauty of the individual's creation and our relationship to it.
This week I've been listening to lots of Anna Ternheim while I wait for her new live album to arrive. Here's some live songs recorded in Paris.
When will she play the UK?

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