Why Poetry Matters Review: Reasoning Rhyme

May 19, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

WHY POETRY MATTERS, Wednesday 20th May, BBC2, 9pm Alert Me

We live in a country that has one of the richest traditions of poetry found anywhere in the world.

From Shakespeare, Milton and Spencer to the likes of Benjamin Zephaniah, Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage, we are steeped in an astonishingly diverse range of verse which communicates ideas about the world.

Poetry is found in libraries, football terraces and at the hundreds of amateur poetry groups which take place across the country. We are hardwired to appreciate it, yet poetry continues to have the reputation of being either a soppy pastime or an elitist pursuit.

With this idea in mind, poetry enthusiast Griff Rhys Jones sets out to examine what exactly it is about poetry that makes us both love and fear it.

In short, Why Poetry Matters is a celebration of poetry and its ability to convey an extraordinary range of emotion, feeling and interest. Looking at the way children are drawn to incantation and nursery rhymes, Rhys Jones asserts that we’re predisposed to appreciate poetry in its various forms. According to poet Simon Armitage the genius of well written poetry is that it taps into an aural subconscious and affects the parts that lesser art forms fail to reach.

The good news is that not only do the British public appreciate good poetry but a surprising number actually engage in it on a regular basis. Up and down the country everyone from schoolboys to grannies are putting down their own thoughts on paper and communicating them to the wider world. People like Dan le Sac and Scroobius Pip have brought performance poetry more mainstream credibility and performance poets also visit primary schools in an effort to teach children about the joys of language.

While clearly infatuated with poetry, Rhys Jones is unfortunately also rather fond of the sound of his own voice. For a show that features snippets from some of the finest verse around, you might think it apt to include readings by some of the finest British actors around. Not Rhys Jones, however, who demonstrates the full range of his oratory prowess to the extent that, for someone who finds his on screen persona a little bit grating, the words get lost under his dramatic warbling.

I left the viewing full of the wonder of words yet I couldn’t shake the idea that merely talking about it is missing the point.


Jack McKay