Olivia Cole

The Spectator’s 40 Poems You Should Know

The Spectator's 40 Poems You Should Know
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That poetry is the "new rock 'n' roll" is an oft-uttered sentiment. But as its power to transport, provoke, console and seduce has been a constant for thousands of years now, I prefer to regard it as the old rock 'n' roll. The original, if you will...

And it's in this spirit that we've prepared a festival of poetry for Spectator readers - only you won't need to bring along wellies or a tent. Tomorrow's issue of the magazine - print edition only - launches our special selection of 40 Poems You Should Know.  

Picking the 40 entries was a tall order - not because it's hard to find worthy headline acts, but because there are too many to choose from. From poems written five hundred years ago, to new poems published in the last few months, there is - I hope - a line-up which includes at least some of the poets you yourselves would count as "essential".  

We hope, too, that The Spectator's 40 Poems You Should Know captures something of the Spectator's deep and long-lasting affinity for poetry. Nowadays, you are very lucky to find one (forget two or three) poems anywhere in a British magazine or newspaper. But, thanks to our poetry editor (and first and foremost a wonderful poet) Hugo Williams, the Spectator is one of the few mainstream magazines which still publishes poetry in any quantity. No breaking story is big enough to push out the lovely spectacle of poems floating in luxurious white space, like a moment of calm in a world that moves noisily about at around a million miles per hour.

From the moment I started preparing the Spectator's list, I was sure that it would horrify as many readers as it would please. To see who made the cut, you'll have to attend the fest... that is, buy the magazine. I look forward to reading about the unforgivable omissions and delusional picks on Coffee House over the next few weeks.