The Poetry Show waffles about AMBIGUITY and Stairwell Books Presents: John Gilham

John Gilham is the ME of his notorious tales of FOSDYKE AND ME: two malcontent youths living “under the flight path from Heathrow” in the 1960s. Actually, John and Fosdyke are more benign than malign and have delighted York audiences for at least 15 years. John will set me straight on their longevity.

More recently, John is the editor of international arts magazine Dream Catcher, truly a home-grown journal, founded over 20 years ago as part of a York St John’s project by then-student Paul Sutherland. John will no doubt chat to us about trains, Fosdyke, Dream Catcher, poetry, and bicycles!

The photo is John Gilham, speaking as editor of Dream Catcher at the May 2017 London Poetry Magazine Fair. Alan is lurking in the wings.

But before all that, Monday’s The Poetry Show Season One episode is about Ambiguity. I think…. I’m not sure…. Perhaps I’m a little vague.

When you write a poem, are you being clear? Actually, that’s a big deal isn’t it. Some of us *ahem* like to have multiple meanings, a sort of Pollock canvas spatter of words. Or, Picasso. Poem Descending Staircase.

Others want it blunt. Clear. Open to all. To that end, I’ll read “A Celebration of My Ignorance.” There are plenty of snide comments about “approachable” poets, such as were made about Carol Ann Duffy when she became Poet Laureate, and more recently about Hollie McNish. The most damning comments seem to be along the lines of ‘she’s too popular’. I like that their poetry isn’t elitist. At Yale, I was accused of writing in too popular a style. “Oh, you mean, I sound stupid?” The man blinked but demurred to answer.

On the other hand, laying it all out, spoon-feeding the reader is a guaranteed way to bore them. Why do all the work? Why lock down every image so that the listener or reader can add NOTHING?

So, is it better to be explicit, or a little vague?


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