Poets usually have a choice between writing on mythical themes or of mythologizing the ordinary. Anything truly mundane it’s…well, prosaic. For modern writers dealing with everyday life, there needs to be a kind of transcendence introduced, something larger than life itself. You’ll find that in the poems of even the most down-to-earth, like Simon Armitage or Wendy Cope—a sense that someone brushing their teeth or reading the newspaper actually represents something more.
Avenues and Runways Aidan Coleman Brandl & Schlesinger 2005, 66 pages
“Home never seemed worth writing about. The place was post-history”As a first-generation resident (Coleman was born in Wales), he identifies with his town, but doesn’t see in it anything worthy of poetry. A bit of a dilemma for a poet! So he does what the modern British poets have done faced with a similar ambivalence towards their own country and a tendency to understate—he sucks it up and writes some poems anyway. Out of it we get a volume like 2005’s Avenues & Runways in which housing estates, airport terminals and government research facilities are given the poetic treatment we once reserved for natural wonders. And it works because it’s clever and simple and speaks to all the ordinary poetry readers who aren’t blessed to live somewhere timeless and dramatic. It’s the same way that a clever painter or photographer can turn an ugly scene into something remarkable. It’s the reason we read poetry in the first place. It’s far less efficient than prose at transmitting facts or information, but it’s much better and communicating the things behind the things, the subconscious feeling that the ordinary isn’t really that at all.
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