Thursday, 1 September 2011


08:31:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device 2 comments
When I was 11 there was a door which caused no end of worry for me. It was the barrier between the students and the staff at my high school. As a polite, fearsome creature I had been taught to always knock before entering a room. The staff room door sported a large sign with the words 'DO NOT KNOCK' at eye level.

On the first occasion that I was sent to deliver books to a teacher in the staff room I ended up standing outside the door in a state of panic. Should I wait until a teacher went in or out and ask for help? What if nobody came or went for hours? I'd be in trouble for loitering. Maybe knocking was permissable under these circumstances? The sign said otherwise. Eventually, I scurried, mouse-like, into the staff room without knocking, found the appropriate teacher, delivered the books and practically ran out again. Nobody died. I hadn't knocked. From that moment I disregarded the sign. Its power over me receded.

Doorways can be put in place as security, to keep unwanted people, creatures, weather etc. out. They can be used, prison-like, to keep people in. But much like the prisoner who cannot be contained in their mind, doors will only be effective if we allow them to be, if we agree with their purpose.

To the uninitiated, the door to poetry can seem forbidding. Much like any subject with which you have only a fleeting acquaintance, it is common to make assumptions about what lies behind the door. Fear can prevent newcomers to ever making that first move beyond the door.

As a lover or poetry, and a poet, I see it as my job to keep an eye on that door. I want to make its exterior appear welcoming, with a mat and hanging basket if necessary. I'd prefer the door to be kept ajar so that anyone can peep inside and hear beautiful music being played, or the sound of laughter.

A door is a necessary way of separating poetry from the rest of the world. With the presence of a door it is clear that poetry has its own identity. It is not prose, it is not song. It is something else. But poetry's door should never be forbidding. And poetry's door should have an old fashioned bell-pull that is a pleasure to ring and beckons eager poets into your world with welcoming arms.



Ashley R Lister said...

Imagine that! Something written by teachers that doesn't make sense. Who would have thought?

Astute and thought-provoking as always.


Lara Clayton said...

I really liked this.

I love the direction that you've taken with this week's theme, and it very much had me nodding in agreement.