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BBC Favourite Poet Poll

Today is Poetry Day and the BBC announced the result of their poll to disvcover the nation's favourite poets.  Surprisingly the top poet was
T.S. Eliot.  The top ten are

           TS Eliot
           John Donne
           Benjamin Zephaniah
           Wilfrid Owen
           Philip Larkin
           William Blake
           WB Yeats
           John Betjeman
           John Keats
           Dylan Thomas

Benjamin Zephaniah? Oh well – why not?

I must say I never really understood the appeal of Betjeman. And as for Owen, he was a wonderful gifted poet whose life was cut short far too early. It seems uncharitable to complain of his range being limited: given what he went through, how could he written about anything else? But for all that, I don’t know if it’s uncharitable to wonder, given what he has left behind in his all too short a life, whether he ranks with the finest.

Wasn’t Shakespeare considered for the list? Leaving aside the poetry in his plays, his sonnets alone should surely secure him the No 1 place! And I am a bit surprised by the absence of the Romantics. Wordsworth, I know, is pretty unfashionable nowadays, but I’d have expected to have seen Shelley, Keats & Byron. And Coleridge too – if only for “The Ancient Mariner”.

Of course, whenever one sees a poll like this, one wonders what one’s own list would be. I am very conscious that I have read very little (only a few odd excerpts) of two of England’s very greatest poets – Chaucer and Spenser. That really is a gap in my reading I should look into. Donne I must admit I struggle with (and obviously, that’s a comment on myself, not on Donne). I am also rather ambivalent about Milton: at times, his poetry overwhelms me; at other times, I find his grandiloquence rather tiring, and wish he’d just speak to me rather than declaim.

My own list would have Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Yeats occupying the top three spots. (Yeats is best known for his earlier, more lyrical poetry, but, lovely though these are, it’s his knottier later work that attracts me more.) Encouraged by Mike, I have recently read quite a bit of Keats and Tennyson, and they’d both make my list. Shelley would be there too, I think: I’ve always been a sucker for Romanticism. And Dryden – a much underrated poet, I feel. (Of course, I’m only speaking of English poetry here, and am leaving out Tagore, who is an automatic choice for any educated Bengali.)

I’m sure more names will come to me as soon as I hit the “Submit” button!

Considering I don't know modern poets outside NZ at all, I am a little surprised that I know of all these poets.  Benjamin Zephaniah must be very famous indeed.

I was fond of Donne and feel I would have liked TS Eliot had I understood him at all!  Despite a religious upbringing many of his allusions went over my head.  And somehow Yeats didn't feature in our studies with the result that I have only come upon him when I read something in an anthology or the like. I feel I would really like him if I bothered.  Same with Wilfred Owen.  

I doubt that I have a top ten list, but let's try for a few:  John Donne, Fleur Adcock, Robert Browning, Andrew Marvell (okay that's just one poem but one I love), George Herbert, NZer Hone Tuwhare.  Probably Yeats if I knew him more.  

And I rather like the fun poems of people like Pam Ayres and Michael Rosen too.

Cheers, Caro.

I seem to remember that Shakespeare was specifically excluded as a candidate.

On what grounds? That seems utterly baffling to me. Like saying, vote for your favourite composer but not Bach.

Well, that would be quite a good idea if you ask me.  They probably wanted people better known for specific poems rather than mostly plays.  Or maybe just wanted to take the hot favourite out to force people to think a bit more.  Without knowing how the research was done (were you allowed five favourites in order, or just one, or what?) it is a bit difficult to guess what the rationale might have been.

Cheers, Caro.

But where do you draw the line? Eliot and Dylan Thomas wrote plays, Larkin was a novelist... I can't think of another reason to exclude Shakespeare other than that the people running the poll think he is too great a writer, which makes a nonsense of the whole thing. Not that I care Smile

I remembered last night Walt Whitman  (though it's possible the poll was only asking for UK poets).  I am wondering if I just had one poet to choose, who would it be.  Really I don't know enough of anyone's oeuvre to judge - or if I do, like Wordsworth, I didn't like them enough.  

Would it be Browning maybe?  Or should I read more Fleur Adcock and see if her work generally impresses me as much as the couple of poems I have so far read?  Or would I go with Walt Whitman whose attitudes and ideas impressed me so much when we read him for a book club choice once?

Or have I forgotten someone I love!

I was thinking of having another of those Favourite competitions with our favourite children's authors, but perhaps we could do one on poets instead.  What do people think?  

Cheers, Caro.

A little late to the party but I have only just seen this thread.. and quite surprised to see my favourite poet made the list (considering I'm not into poetry and what poetry I do like is of one genre thats not a mean feat!!) It is of course the magnificent Wilfred Owen

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