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Alan Bennett: joining the literature club

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The playwright used to feel baffled in the face of poetry. All the more reason to compile an anthology of popular poets, from Hardy to Larkin

When I was young, I used to feel that literature was a club of which I would never be a proper member as a reader, let alone a writer. It wasn't that I didn't read books, or even the "right" books, but I always felt that the ones I read couldn't be literature, if only because I had read them. It was the books I couldn't get into (and these included most poetry) that constituted literature or, rather, Literature.

After a lifetime, these feelings of impotence and exclusion are still fresh in my mind. I have only to hear someone extolling the charms of Byron, say, or Coleridge, neither of whom I've ever managed to read, to be reminded of how baffled one can feel in the face of books.

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