Should poetry please?
Including poetry readings
Sunday 28 October, 2.00pm until 3.30pm, Student Union Arts & Society

Poetry seems to be ever-present and ever-popular. From the youthful lyrics penned by US presidential hopeful Barack Obama, to the poems read and written by over 86 million visitors to, poetry is important to all sorts of people. But are we asking of poetry something that it cannot deliver? Poetry has been co-opted into therapy culture, with ‘Poetry Doctor’ Daisy Goodwin prescribing poems online for the stressed and depressed. Poetry is also marshalled to do and say what politics and politicians seem unable to: poets leap into the breach in everything from fighting racism, with the Love Poetry Hate Racism initiative, to protest against the Iraq war through the prosaically-named Poets Against War.

But if we ask of poetry that it cure our personal and political ills, are we not only heading for failure but also missing the point about poetry?  Should poetry please us for itself, if it should aim to please us at all? Or is poetry more pleasing if it not only has something to say about the social and political world we live in, but a role to play in shaping that world as well? Is there any room left for poetry that is purely for pleasure?

The session will feature poetry readings from:
-Jay Bernard, winner, London Respect Slam (2004) and Foyle Young Poets of the Year (2005)
-Tom Chivers, poet and director, Penned in the Margins
-Inua Ellams, poet; author, 13 Fairy Negro Tales
-Laura Forman, Generation Txt poet
-Luke Kennard, poet; winner, Eric Gregory Award (2005)
-Ion Martea, poet; commissioning editor, film,

Compere: David Bowden, poet, writer and playwright


Sarah Crown
editor, Guardian Unlimited Books; judge, 2007 Forward Prize
Dr Shirley Dent
founder, Spark Mobile; communications specialist (currently working with the British Veterinary Association media team); author, Radical Blake

 Produced by

Dr Shirley Dent founder, Spark Mobile; communications specialist (currently working with the British Veterinary Association media team); author, Radical Blake
David Bowden coordinator, UK Battle Satellites; columnist, spiked

Of the one who must be happy: an argument for poetry in relation to pleasure, Ion Martea

 Recommended readings

Spirit for our age
Marx may have been inspired by him, but there is far more to Shelley's poetry than politics
Anne Wroe, Guardian, 6 July 2007

Words Without Borders
'When rhetoric has played such a key role in establishing the political reality (of modern Israel), to challenge that rhetoric is to unravel political conviction at its source'
Jacqueline Rose, Guardian, 1 June 2007

Poetry as a weapon in the war on terror
Although valued increasingly for its personal or social benefits alone, can poetry really serve a pro-American agenda in Pakistan?
Philip Hensher, Independent, 6 December 2005

Poetry is not pamphleteering
Poetry is not about feel-good political posturing, but about 'challenging us, about language in full flight and full thought'
Shirley Dent, Guardian, 20 March 2007

recommended by spiked

A Howl against performance poetry
Shirley Dent, 10 October 2005

Why polemics are killing poetry
Shirley Dent, 12 December 2005

Session partners

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