Sunday 4 December 2016

Radio: Words are in flow on this poetry show

Published 09/10/2016 | 02:30

Broadcaster Rick O'Shea.
Broadcaster Rick O'Shea.

In many ways, poetry is the purest form of literature, maybe all art. For one thing, nobody ever wrote it to make money or get famous.

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And there's something very "true" about good poetry. It's a crystallisation of things; it reduces everything to pure essence.

So I'd like to see far more poetry on Irish radio. If nothing else, form is perfectly matched to medium: poetry is best when read aloud. (Even something in a foreign language can sound beautiful, regardless of whether you understand it). You don't need any visual accompaniment, just the words.

But at least we have The Poetry Programme (Radio 1, Sat 7.30pm). The latest edition broadcast an event recorded on Culture Night, with Rick O'Shea joined in Dublin Castle by poets Doireann Ní Ghríofa, Elaine Feeney and Dave Lordan.

It was good, I mostly enjoyed it; Ní Ghríofa's second poem on motherhood was especially lovely. Though, to go off on a tangent and knock some value out of my BA in English Lit, I wasn't gone on Lordan's contribution, for purely technical reasons.

For me, poetry should have an inherent "poetic" quality. It doesn't have to scan or rhyme, but should be Poetic, capital P, or lyrical, musical… artful in some way.

Lordan's work, about abuse in industrial schools, was angry, heartfelt, passionate - a worthy subject, for sure. But it was more of a lecture or essay; there was nothing especially poetic about it. If you saw it transcribed, you'd assume it was an opinion column. (In fairness to Lordan, a lot of modern poetry is like this.)

O'Shea said: "Extraordinarily powerful work". Possibly - but not quite poetry.

Remember Brexit? When the English voted to leave the EU and, literally within minutes, the country had been overrun by cannibal Nazis on zombie dinosaurs?

You must at least remember the way-past-hysterical media overreaction to the fact that some British people actually had the cheek to vote how they wanted, not how their betters had expressly instructed them to vote. (Note: I'd probably have chosen Remain, but my sarcastic point stands.)

These apocalyptic doomsayers were - I hope - embarrassed and - I suspect - secretly disappointed when the world didn't end after all. In fact, nothing happened.

Now, finally, British PM Teresa May has announced she'll trigger Article 50 next March, thus kicking off two years of negotiations. Sadly, "trigger Article 50" isn't the cool James Bond-ish thing it sounds like it might be - firing an asteroid at Pyongyang or what-have-you - it's just telling the EU, "Yep, we've thought it over and we definitely want to leave."

On The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 9am), spin-doctor Alastair Campbell and Channel 4 newsreader John Snow manfully tried to explain what this means and where it will end. They failed, to be honest, with Snow mournfully commenting: "Nobody has any idea where all of this is going to lead."

But a good, intelligent attempt nonetheless - and nice to hear British commentators on Irish radio when the topic is, you know, Britain. I'll scream if I hear another Hibernian know-it-all - including in this newspaper - lecturing the English on where they went wrong, what they should have done, why they're such idiots and what horrors now await. (May involve cannibal Nazis on zombie dinosaurs.)

Finally, The Anton Savage Show (Today FM, Mon-Fri 9am) had a brief interview and live performance from the wonderful Agnes Obel. Her music is incredibly good but it's also pretty much indefinable - not exactly what you expect to hear on a mid-morning chat-show. So kudos to Savage.

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