The Literary Agenda is a series of short polemical monographs about the importance of literature and of reading in the wider world and about the state of literary education inside schools and universities. The category of 'the literary' has always been contentious. What is clear, however, is how increasingly it is dismissed or is unrecognised as a way of thinking or an arena for thought. It is sceptically challenged from within, for example, by the sometimes rival claims of cultural history, contextualized explanation, or media studies. It is shaken from without by even greater pressures: by economic exigency and the severe social attitudes that can follow from it; by technological change that may leave the traditional forms of serious human communication looking merely antiquated. For just these reasons this is the right time for renewal, to start reinvigorated work into the meaning and value of literary reading.
In this fascinating addition to the Literary Agenda series, David Constantine argues that poetry matters. It matters for individuals and for the society they are members of. He asserts that poetry is not for the few but for the many, and belongs and can only thrive among them, speaks of and to their concerns. The Poet considers both the writing and the reading of poetry, which the Constantine views as kindred activities. He examines what goes into the writing of a poem and considers what good there is in reading it. Constantine also considers translation, arguing that great benefit comes to the native language from dealings with the foreign; also, that all reading is a form of translation - of texts into the lives we lead. Altogether, The Poet is an attempt, with many quotations, to show how poetry works, what its responsibilities are, and how it may help us in our real circumstances now.