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Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people

The poet Adrian Mitchell died recently. Here’s an astonishing clip of him performing his best-known poem.

A snippet from the Guardian‘s obituary.

The poet and playwright Adrian Mitchell, in whom the legacies of Blake and Brecht coalesce with the zip of Little Richard and the swing of Chuck Berry, has died of heart failure at the age of 76. In his many public performances in this country and around the world, he shifted English poetry from correctness and formality towards inclusiveness and political passion.

Mitchell’s original plays and stage adaptations, performed on mainstream national stages and fringe venues, on boats and in nature, add up to a musical, epic and comic form of theatre, a poet’s drama worthy of Aristophanes and Lorca. Across the spectrum of his prolific output, through wars, oppressions and deceptive victories, he remained a beacon of hope in darkening times.

He was a natural pacifist, a playful, deeply serious peacemonger and an instinctive democrat. “Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people,” he wrote in the preface to his first volume, Poems (1964). For all his strong convictions, he abhorred solemnity. From Red Pepper, a small leftwing magazine, he gleefully accepted a nomination as “shadow Poet Laureate”, and demolished royalty, cultural fashions and pretensions in monthly satirical sallies.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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Jeff Sparrow is the former editor of Overland. He is the co-author (with Jill Sparrow) of Radical Melbourne: A Secret History and Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within, the editor (with Antony Loewenstein) of Left Turn: Essays for the New Left and the author of Communism: a love story, Killing: Misadventures in violence, and Money Shot: A Journey into Censorship and Porn.  On Twitter, he's @Jeff_Sparrow.

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