University of Strathclyde, Glasgow 14th –15th July 2009
Poetry and the middlebrow
Jane Dowson, De Montfort University ‘[The ordinary man or woman] reads, not poetry, but sensible reasonable journalists and novelists. … It is a great pity that people should turn away from poetry like this, because poetry is not an alien thing; poets don’t write merely to provide highbrows with something to talk about, or to provide the schoolboys of posterity with homework.’ (‘Why Poetry?’, Clifford Dyment, Listener, 17 June, 1936.)
‘What does come through in the anthology introductions, as in the burgeoning literary criticism of this period, is the sense of poetry’s capacity to accelerate or counter cultural change. Camilla Doyle’s “The General Shop” poem encapsulates the kind of widely-read poetry printed in conservative papers and popular anthologies: “Yet smart new stores are dull compared / To this which always stays the same.”i This kind of “general-shop” poem is relegated for the very reason that it leaves things unchanged.’ (Dowson, ‘Overview 1900-45’, A History of Twentieth-Century British Women’s Poetry, CUP, 2005, p. 8).