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In Defence of Jeremy Kyle

June 29, 2012

Recently a poet who rejoices in the name Boudicca was cruelly booed off the stage of Britain’s Got Talent. I didn’t see the incident but Dorset poet Bob Hill (Bob Hill’s website ) did and was so disgusted he was moved to verse, as I heard on

More than once Bob referred to the segment of the population he considered responsible for this outrage as “Kyle Watchers”.

I guess we all know what that means – the sort of ignorant uneducated layabouts who watch the likes of BGT, Jeremy Kyle, Big Brother and the ilk that originally found a home on our TVs thanks to such dubious characters as Jerry Springer (remember “Jerry Springer the Opera”?) and, it seems, like nothing more than to indulge in a practice my brother refers to in his un PC way as “cripple kicking”.

Well, it’s true that BGT’s audience might have treated poor Boudicca with a bit more respect, and it was undoubtedly wrong of the show’s producers to humiliate her further by broadcasting the segment (though one does hope she was paid something for her pains) but a few odd poets have actually succeeded with that tough crowd.

Eugene the Librarian won the audience over with his humorous appearance and not very serious doggerel, and who can forget Olivia Binfield, the seven year old future zoologist who recited her poem (which included Latin epithets!) whilst draped in a large snake? Here she is.

The humour, the snake, the being seven are not so far removed from the tricks one sees employed at open mike nights and poetry slams; there’s always an element of competition and ritual humiliation involved, even if the audience is ever so polite and considerate, sometimes to the point where one despairs of having made any impression at all! It would be wonderful to gain serious attention for one’s work without having to please some crowd; but that’s life, I guess.

This very blog itself might be considered as no more than another poet’s attempt to identify himself and to connect with an audience. So don’t doubt, dear reader and especially all those that won’t read this, that I feel no less if not even greater wrath toward you who choose to ignore, belittle or detest this poet than is so frequently directed toward the masses of BGT and Kyle watchers and all poor fools who claim that poetry just isn’t for them.

It’s too easy to hate people whose culture or manners do not correspond to our own; that’s something of a disease in this country. As G. B. Shaw said back in 1916: “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman despise him”. So if you can stand poets or reality TV audiences, you can always pick on your least favourite class or social group, be they Tories, Guardian readers, bankers, benefit cheats, drivers, pedestrians etc etc. The list is endless and if you are too refined to join in the booing on Jeremy Kyle then perhaps the doings at the House of Commons can fill your daily cup of bile.

If fact Jeremy Kyle takes a dim view of his guests being booed, at least until they’ve had a chance to “tell their side of the story”. It might be hard to believe that Jeremy Kyle is as concerned with the soul of the nation as the average poet, but he does his best, poor man, for the flotsam and jetsam that turn up on his show. Appearing on it may be an ordeal for some, but he always insists that it’s only a part of a longer process, taken care of by his after care team, who seem to be trying as hard to do good as more respectable authorities. His concern for the dysfunctional families of this country is obvious, berating feckless parents with his slogan “you should have put something on the end of it!” and generally trying to persuade them by fair means or foul to take their responsibilities more seriously. His aggressive tone is intended to cajole warring spouses, families or neighbours into talking more frankly about their problems. His lie detector and DNA results may give viewers a cheap thrill, but they can help free people of a vicious rumour or partner or of sometimes quite agonising doubts over paternity issues, or to own up to their own sins. Audiences of his shows are exposed to moments of revelation and insight that, for them, may well be as valid as any provided by poets.

As for poor old poetry itself, so often mocked and derided by our hate filled nation, it’s my post so I’ll have the last word with the following poem, written in response to my own “BGT” moment:

Poetry Denied

A lady in the crowd shouted at me

“I’m too ignorant to understand poetry!”

That was how she chose to express herself

Shouting down a poet by boasting of her ignorance,

Hiding her fear behind that old lie.

It is impossible to not understand poetry, we all know it

We’ve all been hurt by words

Suffered loss or feelings we couldn’t bear

Come face to face with the unknowable, the strange, the oddly familiar.

Will this woman not understand poetry

When she first sees her love, her child?

What a tragedy that would be!

As people strive to conceal the best of themselves

And present a perfect blank to an unsympathetic world

It seems this whole island, all this land and nation

Is trying to deny the sense of poetry

With the grim results we all can see.

Poetry is life’s mystery and wonder expressed in words

A position in which to stand and face this troubling existence

With courage and good heart enough to share what we have found

For words and strong feelings might bring us joy or pain

But poetry captures them and sets us free again.


From → Critic, Poet

One Comment
  1. I stand by most of the opinions given here, particularly those on performance poetry, and the role of hate in our culture. However, since this article was posted I have read about some very unpleasant incidents associated with “The Jeremy Kyle Show” and can now accept that my defence of it, though always somewhat facetious in intent, could have caused real pain and offence to some readers, which I didn’t intend at all. One wants to be bold, plain speaking and provocative, but lack of thought or of second thought can lead to crassness, for which I apologise on this and all occasions.


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