Skip to Content

'A primitive pleasure'

5 January 2009

'In times gone by, poetry was always the word-form most immediately associated withstrong feelings. What is surprising is finding that in the present day, when articles in newspapers about 'the death of poetry' come round as regularly as a lost sock in the washing machine, these ancient offices and values are still so honoured.

It's because poetry is a fundamentally primitive thing. We understand this before we realise it, when we chant and recite in the school playground, taking a basic human pleasure in the rhythms and rhymes and games that language allows...

...Poetry, which belongs in life, should reflect the whole experience of life. It should be as happily diverse as the society which brings it into being, and... as manifold as the relationships it will describe, Sometimes rejoicing in things as they are, sometimes criticising them, sometimes welcoming, sometimes rejecting - always keeping its eyes peeled, its ears open, and its devotion to meaning as intense as its passion for mystery.

A primitive pleasure? Absolutely. But a primitive pleasure that is endlessly transformed and re-invented.

Andrew MotionEnglish poet, novelist and biographer; Poet Laureate of United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009; during his laureateship founded the Poetry Archive, an online resource of poems and audio recordings of poets reading their own work, UK Poet Laureate, in the Sunday Telegraph