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THE BIBLIO FILE is one of the world's leading podcasts about "the book," and an inquiry into the wider world of book culture. Hosted by Nigel Beale it features wide ranging, long-form conversations with authors, poets, book publishers, booksellers, book editors, book collectors, book makers, book scholars, book critics, book designers, book publicists, literary agents and many others - inside the book trade and out - from writer to reader. 

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Apr 7, 2008

In honour of Poetry Month, here is my interview with Canadian poet, critic and political writer, David Solway. We first discuss what constitutes a great poem in the context of ‘political’ and other agendas that some poets incorporate into their work. According to Solway, great poems consist of authentic, incontestable, memorable language, with vivid power, lapidary quality and prodigious rhetorical flow, which takes time, education, reflection and maturity to work itself into themes of human importance; synoptic views of the complexity of human life; a confluence of eloquent language and major subject which has something important to say and which will resonate with contemporary and future generations.

Great poems are like Switzerland, says Solway: candidates must pass through a stringent, careful, fine-meshed filter before they are granted citizenship.

It is posterity that decides what is great. Aphoristic memorability and the wish to keep the words alive in the mind determines greatness.