The nightmare of making films about poets

Television and film are popular mediums. Poetry has never been popular. This is Sam Weller’s father in Pickwick Papers, when he discovers his son writing a valentine, alarmed it might be poetry: Poetry’s unnat’tral; no man ever talked poetry ’cept a beadle on boxin’ day, or Warren’s blackin’, or Rowland’s oil, or some o’ them low fellows; never let yourself down to talk poetry, my boy. In 1994, I made a short film about Kipling. The director, Tony Cash, a man with a first-class Oxford degree in Russian, objected to a two-second reference to Aristotle’s ‘pity and terror’ in my script. ‘If you mention Aristotle, they [the TV audience] will

A brief history of harlots

I write this as a follow-up to last week’s essay on muzzling after making whoopee. I’m on my way to Patmos, an island so difficult to get to, it has kept the great unwashed away. From now it is the only island I will grace with my presence, until the next time, that is. It was Kipling who quipped about journalists having ‘power without responsibility’. He then added the phrase ‘the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages’, which was repeated by Stanley Baldwin, not Stanley Johnson. Comparing hacks to harlots is, of course, unfair to the girls. Some of them have risen to the highest offices in the past