The British actress, Dame Judy Dench, once said “a bad experience of Shakespeare is like a bad oyster – it puts you off for life.”
This, it appears, is the case for me.
Before you all start screaming “PHILISTINE” I would like to put on record Shakespeare is probably the greatest and most influential writer to have graced this planet. The fact his work, 400 years on, is still widely read and performed is testament to his greatness but, despite many hours of reading and studying his work, I can’t warm to it.
At school, lessons involving Shakespeare were torturous – the seagulls on the sports hall roof providing better entertainment. The long-suffering Mrs Davy D, a huge fan of the Bard, has dragged me twice to see performances of Twelfth Night; to no avail the Shakespearian block just won’t lift.
As a child, my early poetic influences centred around the work of Edward Lear, Roald Dahl and Spike Milligan. In teenage years, I had progressed to the more serious work of Dr John Cooper Clarke and Pam Ayres. The onset of a more mature age has taken me to Charles Bukowski, Philip Larkin and a myriad of other poets with a dark slant on life, but still no room for Old Will.
What is it then that determines the kind of poetry and prose we read, enjoy and write?
Is it our upbringing, our early influences, our cultures?
Is it our education, the people we work with, our social groups?
I would be interested in hearing people’s views as I am in a dilemma. A teacher once told me “if you can’t love Shakespeare, then you can’t love poetry.”
The stage is yours, let the throwing of rotting fruit and vegetables commence.