Today is National Poetry Day. Huzzah! Excuse me, I'm just quietly retching.
Not because poetry, and poets, don't deserve their day in the sun. They do. And not because poetry couldn't use some promotion – it could.
But the idea that you need a national day of recognition for it illustrates the abyssal place of poetry in modern society, and smacks against the ethos of the art – at least, its founding stones, before it became the preserve of dilettantes and academics.
See, like any art, poetry at base is communication. And in the old days, it was the primary means by which the common people were informed.
The strolling bard would wander into your hamlet and tell the news, through poetic tales and songs, the best of which became sagas that have survived to embroider the fabric of the world that was.
Which form came first – the spoken story, the cave drawing, the beaten log drum, the shuffling dance – is irrelevant. All can communicate in ways that lift the form to become something more – a work of art.
Poetry is foremost for me, because I'm a poet. Certainly poetry has had its shining days of old, from the Homeric traditions of the "civilised" Greeks to the valorous edda of the "barbarian" Vikings.
Indeed, it could fairly be described as the artform most understood and embraced by the common man. For it was through poetry – including religious texts and psalms, not to mention plays - he or she learned of the greater world.
Ironic I now write pieces for an organ whose brethren almost killed my art.
For once books became commonplace and even commoners learned to read, it was inevitable newspapers would emerge to keep citizens abreast of what was going on.
Virtually overnight, bards became redundant. Or should I say, became more simply musicians, still valued for their songs but no longer relied on for news.
Poetry felt this change most. Yes, there were (and are) cultures which still honoured poets highly, but in the English tradition poetry retreated to the universities and became almost-exclusively the preserve of the rich and the learned.
To survive as a poet from the 17th century until recently required a wealthy patron; and the audience became the drawing-room elite, who expected more to be titillated than informed.
Unfortunately, to a large extent that is still the case today.
I'm a purist. In the bardic tradition, performance is half the art; communication is a two-way street that requires direct interaction with the populace at large.
Being a wordsmith par excellence is a worthy talent, but if you can't bring a crowd under your sway with what you say and how you say it, then in my book you've yet to earn the title of poet.
There, I've just ostracised 98 per cent of the would-be and so-called poets out there, but I'm unrepentant. Poets must strive to make their poems ring real and true for as many folk in society as have sense to absorb them, and the only valid test of relevance is to present it live.
People don't have to like it. But if it's good enough, they cannot ignore it.
Me? I spent six years making my living as a performance poet; I have nothing to prove.
So you won't see me at a politely indulgent knitting circle today, nor at some "slam" stand-up comedy masquerade, nor in an ivoried lecture hall.
No, I'll be gathering energy to perform somewhere someone who least expects it feels the words dance the air because they're alive.
And any day is a good day for that.