The BBC, in one of its periodic fits of do-goodery, is about to launch a Poetry Season, beginning pretty much as it means to go on - with a waffly account of Why Poetry Matters by the endlessly irritating Griff Rhys Jones, whose passionate love of poetry will, I fancy, come as news to most of us. The BBC of course is convinced we can only swallow the bitter pill of poetry if it's helped down by a celebrity - hence we are promised My Life In Verse with Robert Webb (one half of popular comedy duo Mitchell and Webb, m'lud) - and more celebs to follow under the same banner. There's also Armando Iannucci on Milton, and the obligatory gameshow element, in the form of a children's recitation contest with the self-explanatory title Off By Heart. Perhaps the most bizarre item - though I'm sure there will be competition - is Simon Schama's John Donne, in which Donne's poems are read, on-screen and off, and discussed at length, by the preening Irish actress Fiona Shaw. What on earth was the thinking behind giving to this most assertively masculine of English poets a female, Irish voice and intonation? It seems, frankly, bonkers, and ruins the enjoyment - and, come to that, the meaning - of the verse.
Ah well, perhaps these worthy projects have some good effects. Maybe some people who are unversed (as it were) in poetry will be drawn in by that sprinkle of celebrity stardust. Maybe it's good to be reminded, however crassly, that poetry matters - though it's a difficult argument to frame at the best of times, even by those of us who love it and somehow know it does matter. Are we saying anything more than that it matters to us? Maybe that is all that can usefully be said.