On the Sunday morning of the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival I breakfasted with poets discussing the theme of writing poetry and whether it can be taught.
Straight away, Thomas Lux said: Yes!
It is no different from the viloin or painting.
Metaphor, simile, that’s trickier, he said. But we can relax: Plato and Aristotle knew this thousands of years ago. It can be taught of course, but there is always a mystery. There has to be. We might call it talent, or some such, but really that is irrelevant.
Towards the end of our discussion I heard an extraordinary thing. An epiphany.
One of the discussants, Lisa Gershon, told us she is a tennis coach.
Her method is to ask her players to stop playing in their heads and pay attention instead to the way they move on the court. To listen to the thwok of the ball off the racket. To not worry about the result.
It may end up costing her her job.
She was comparing the way we teach children to dissect poems as opposed to letting them feel them in their bodies, encouraging them to respond with delight and enthusiasm instead of finding the metaphor in line 4.
Rafa Nadal is right handed, but plays tennis with his left.
‘In this country,’ she said, ‘that would never have happened. But in Spain he was allowed to be comfortable. His comfort came before his need to be excellent. That’s the way we should teach poetry.’