The Insider; Books

Article excerpt

Byline: Peter Finch

IT'S always good to ask the public what it wants. People like to make their voices heard, to have an input. The problem for those putting the questions is that once they've been asked, answers generally start to arrive.

And something then has to be done. Read them, compile them, make projections, file them. When the Arts Council of England surveyed the public, hunting for data on reading habits, they learned that poetry fans preferred to read verse in single slices.

On posters, in magazines, on flyers. Slim volumes (which is what most poetry comes in), apparently, were too dense. Long live the back of the matchbox.

Nigel Jenkins recounts the tale of the only poetry reading on record to have ended with an audience brawl. The reading was given by me in Neath at the height of THE INSIDER Peter Finch In the past I've surveyed literary event attendees, asking them what kind of thing would they like to see more of in the future. Novelists talking, perhaps? Interviews with playwrights? Sound poetry? It was that last one that struck a chord. I meant the poetry of sounds - the sort of the thing the Dadaists became famous for and which the late Bob Cobbing had taken to new heights at Cardiff's Reardon Smith and in the Young Farmer's Club at Felinfach. That choice scored well.

I put on Henri Chopin and Lars Gunnar Bodin. Sold three tickets. My questionnaire fillers had thought I meant poetry written to sound. I should have known. …