That’s right, metrophobia is a fear or hatred of poetry…
I was enjoying my daily trawl through the myriad of online news when I discovered the article Metrophobia: Are We Afraid Of Poetry? by Kim Rosen in the Huffington Post. As a teacher, and having been exposed to the methods by which some people try and teach poetry, I can understand that this fear exists… as Hosen points out, somewhere along the line, we have ‘managed to marginalise poetry, an art that is and always has been central to the species.’
And it is so true, as she goes on to say, ‘in most countries, poetry resides in its time-honored place at the heart of the culture. There, people turn to poetry the way we turn to the music that fills our homes and cars, the art that covers our walls, the architecture that lines our streets, the plays, dance and film that fill our theatres.’ And furthermore that, ‘in most cultures, reciting poetry is not relegated to the poets, or to the alabaster halls of academia.’
One of the examples Rosen uses to illustrate this point is the unsurpassed success of the TV show, The Millions’ Poet. The show is filmed in front of a 2000 strong live audience in Abu Dhabi and features 48 poets (selected from the 7000+ people who audition), competing for the title of The Million’s Poet. The show is part of the $40billion push to make Abu Dhabi the cultural capital of the Middle East and at times has been screened to an estimated audience of 70 million people.
While I often struggle with the concept of poetry as a competition, 70 million people tuning in to listen to a poem is staggering to me… Just the other day I was pondering the fate of the new ABC TV program Bush Slam. While in Australia we are never going to reach that dizzying number of viewers, imagine if one million tuned in? Already the show is coming under fire, with Graeme Blundell describing it in his weekly column in the Australian as ‘rather woeful (although some of the practitioners are so glumly earnest they’re difficult to hate).’ Sadly, the short review is also misinformed, as the majority of the poets appearing in the show are not ‘bush poets’ at all… in fact, there seems, on paper at least, to be a balanced selection of artists selected for the show. Maybe Graeme Blundell is just suffering from a bout of metrophobia?
While Bush Slam, may have its drawbacks (let’s face it, it is hard to really capture the essence of a place and showcase the creation of a poem in a 30min show), it is a step in the right direction, and with Bright Star currently playing across the nation to uplifting reviews, and Invictus (Clint Eastwood’s latest film about Nelson Mandela and how he was saved by William Ernest Henley’s poem of the same name) on the way, poetry is once again, being talked about in the national media.