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Poems for life

By Tom Chatfield  

It’s almost obligatory to preface an article about poetry by saying that not many people read it these days. Specifically, not many people read modern poetry—the dead out-sell the living in the English language many times over, with its best-loved and most-read poems belonging to a few dozen authors born between around 1500 and 1950. Of all the theories advanced to explain this, the most obvious has always seemed to me the most likely: that poetic talent in contemporary culture is largely channelled into forms and media other than traditional poetry—spoken word, popular music, the increasingly catch-all forms of the…

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