I won't embarrass the poets by naming them, but at a London poetry reading the other night I really did want to leave before the end. Which is rare for me, someone who has sat through some of the most excruciatingly bad poetry ever produced on this planet. But it really was almost more than I could bear.
Sitting at the back, where a hurried exit would have been spotted by friends, including some of the poets themselves, there were moments when I felt like an animal caught in a trap, desperate enough to consider gnawing my own leg off in order to escape.
The poets whose work particularly offended me were introduced to us as brilliant, innovative, talented, highly thought of, the best young ... etc.
And then they stood up and read reams of tiresome poetry clotted with pointlessly arcane references, foreign words they embarrassingly couldn't pronounce correctly, Latinate phrases for the simplest thoughts - 'ambulate' was used instead of 'walk' at one stage - and all of it in tones of such grave, deliberative pretention, I feared they were in fact eighty-year-old retired church wardens trapped in the bodies of healthy twenty-somethings.
For pity's sake, I wanted to say, write from the heart. Forget technique, forget Greek prosody, forget trying to impress us with your erudition. Life is what impresses us. Give us life in your poetry, raw and beautiful and - above all - honest, and we will forgive you any number of faults.
The voice you need is your own. So use it; not someone else's, least of all poets who have been dead for hundreds or even thousands of years.
But of course, they wouldn't have listened even if I'd stood up there and then to tell them. Because other teachers had been there before me, well-meaning but not up to the task teachers, and poisoned their minds and their talent, to the extent that their poetry has - not surprisingly - died. All that's left is the fossilised husk they read out to us that night, and the instinct to bolster their own work with the words of other, more dynamic, long-dead poets.
I hope to hear them again in the future and be proved wrong.