The poet John Fuller’s new book of this title looks as if it is intended, by explaining the obscurities of some poems, to explain the obscurity of poetry in general to those who have perhaps exasperatedly given up reading the stuff. I found it so interesting and provocative I wrote to him about it, but can’t find an address for him, so I put it here where he will probably – fortunately or unfortunately – never see it:
It could have been a useful, valuable, even (if like me you think poetry is vitally important) necessary book. If it is really intended for the general reader it fails, because, like the high court judge who smiles patronizingly as he peers over his half-moon spectacles to ask ‘Who is David Beckham?’ it or he is donnishly distant from his intended audience. It assumes a familiarity with many really rather difficult poems and takes for granted a knowledge of Greek and Roman history and mythology, and so will cause as much exasperation to the poetically perplexed as the very poems that have brought them to the book.
John Fuller is preaching to the converted.