As long as I can remember I've liked poetry. In a way it's hardly surprising as being born into the rock and roll age I was weaned on what is essentially poetry set to music. The earliest poetry I remember was stuff by Edward Lear, Walter de la Mare, Lewis Carroll and Spike Milligan. As a kid I loved rhyme, and if humour was involved then a double bonus. The works of Lewis Carroll have always stayed with me but later I learned to love the war poets, especially Siegfried Sassoon, and then at school I was introduced to Dylan Thomas. Well! That was it. It opened up my world and my understanding of poetry. His poetry was like molasses, black treacle, rich, sweet and fruity. And then when he read it in that lugubrious voice it took on an even more magical quality. I felt and still do feel truly enriched by his work.
Next I discovered William McGonagall. The poor chap is often cited as the worst poet ever but I think that's rather unfair. His work has something. Yes it's challenging at times, and not to most people's liking but that's the nature of art; there is no good or bad, just personal preference. McGonagall was ahead of his time. The original punk poet.
John Betjeman was always there during my childhood. In the background. Later the poet laureate. The poet of the establishment. Abuser of Slough. But he released what was the rap of the day in his blockbuster Betjeman's Banana Blush. Poetry set to music. But in such a way that it was both comfortable and radical at the same time.
Punk, which changed my life totally, brought forth a whole heap of fantastic poets. Across all the arts the rule book was torn up. Linton Kwesi Johnson was the first poet of that era that I really got into. I'd never heard anything like it before. Naturally that lead to John Cooper Clarke and then Benjamin Zephaniah. Poetry had become exciting!
Poetry is exciting!
Of course in my youth I wrote shed loads of dire poetry. It was my way of dealing with the deep depressions that I went through. It helped. It stopped me from topping myself. So it wasn't all bad. Very little of it has seen the light of day even though I still have loads of note and exercise books full of the stuff. I'm not sure the public would ever be ready for it.
Since the days of punk my interest in poetry has blossomed and grown. I appreciate such a diverse spread of work and am constantly coming across new stuff that fires my imagination.