How to Talk About Poetry

1. If addressing a general audience

Adopt the persona of a jolly uncle. Talk fast, sound upbeat, make lame jokes. Remember your audience associates poetry with quiet suffering; noise and enthusiasm will come as a welcome relief to them. Be hearty!

2. If addressing an audience interested in culture

Wear a suit. Allude to the latest culture gossip; refer to the sad decline of bookshops and the exciting rise of the e-book; touch lightly on your personal connections with Berlin, London, Edinburgh, Paris, New York, Frankfurt and Bayreuth. Acknowledge the importance of poetry and name two or three poets without referring to their work – then talk with feeling about your personal preference for political biography and ballet. Finish with a funny anecdote about someone you think your audience may actually have heard of.

3. If addressing students

Dim the auditorium, so that any illicit use of electronic devices will be evident. Forbid note-taking and refer the audience to the forthcoming availability of the lecture online. Imagine that they are infants still in the womb and you are a form of classical music, playing in the background while they float insensate in amniotic fluid, enriching their intelligence before they know it.

4. If you are a woman

Adopt the persona of your make-up. Show cleavage. Think smooth and shine. Look at the audience as your selfie camera. Remember, all that should come to mind when you speak is lovely.

5. If addressing an audience interested in poetry

Don’t talk poetry; read poems.