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This article is taken from PN Review 177, Volume 34 Number 1, September - October 2007.

In Praise of Lying Ross Cogan

It has sometimes seemed of late years ... as if the poet could at any moment write a poem by recording the fortuitous scene or thought, perhaps it might be enough to put into some fashionable rhythm - 'I am sitting in a chair, there are three dead flies on a corner of the ceiling'.
W.B. Yeats1

Some months ago, I took my friend Anna to a poetry reading. There were two relatively well known poets, a reasonable crowd and free drinks. It all seemed well received.

Anna's reaction, though, bordered on the angry. The whole event was 'an exercise in self-indulgence'. The writing was poor; the subject matter dull; the presentation twee. She couldn't fathom what spirit of arrogance or exhibitionism led the poets to think that we would be interested in observations on the mundane details of their daily lives. All told, it was a waste of a good evening.

I should explain a couple of things. Anna is neither a philistine nor a fuddy-duddy. An Oxford-educated social-housing lawyer, she now edits a publication aimed at students. She's widely travelled, confident, feminist and she's spent a lot of time with rock musicians. In short, she's about as cool as it's possible to be in your late thirties and just the sort of person to whom poetry might be expected to appeal. And her reaction is typical of the people I've taken to poetry readings.

If ...

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