I have been at a thing. Poets I love and trust were there. We laughed. We invented scurrilous Twitter-profiles. It was the best of times.
As our time together progressed, they very gently persuaded me that I had wasted my life for not having read X, a poet you doubtless know and love. I offered no defence, the usual justifications of lack of funds and time being nothing more than excuses for laziness. It became clear to us all: I had ignored the wonderful poetry of X and for no good reason.
To be fair to my friends, they resisted the route of persecution-as-persuasion, confident of their skills as transmitters of excitement instead. To be fair to them again, it worked. The first book of X arrived today, fresher than a fish though published some years ago by a press we all know and love. It is in one of those ex-library copies, sheathed in protective plastic. The paper is very high-quality, I notice. All for 1p.
I won’t name the poems. But suffice to say I am ashamed for having lived this much of my life without knowledge of them jumping off the page, every sentence and line, with such vim and veracity. They are more than supremely good, they are the kind of poems I wish I had written myself, forging a new map of how to do it as I read them. All of this, for 1p plus postage. Ridiculous, really. That our culture can be so varied and teeming and rich, to have World Class Poets under our noses whom we somehow miss (or assume are ‘not us’ or ‘difficult’), and how said culture pleases itself to remain pretty much silent about this outrageous outpouring of talent.
Happily I have moved from shame and embarrassment to excitement and admiration. Soon I’ll be in my evangelism-phase. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll tell the story, against myself, like I have here, of how I did not know Poet X and am now their biggest fan. And of how you really should get your hands on their books right now. The poet that was missing from my shelves is no longer missing, I will say. I found them, all on the recommendation of one poet. Just one! Isn’t that amazing? They have come home, I will say, taking me with them.