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Why winter is the perfect time for poetry


Our pop culture expert on wallowing in the words of a stranger when things are dark and gloomy

Until school forced me, I do not remember consuming much poetry. Finally, I went beyond the pop culture nuggets of Auden and Larkin and the sonnets, and instead learned to dissect Heaney and Hughes and “conflict poetry” to the standards of an exam board. The curriculum tried: my first Walcott came in Year 10 or 11, and Love After Love is perhaps my favourite poem, still – but well, you know.

At least I learned a valuable lesson from reading the works of those many dead, white poets: I go to poetry to be moved. I know; it is a spectacular burden to place on a literary form. And yet when I first read, “We took turns to bury each other”, the opening line from Burial, a poem by South African poet Koleka Putuma, it felt to me like that burden weighed nothing at all.

Related: Why I love Joan Didion

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