I’ve always had a passionate interest in poetry in my professional and personal life. At the BBC, as an arts producer, I worked on some fascinating shows about poets including one exploring the relationship between poets and their muses, as well as coming up with the Nation’s Favourite Love Poems, a programme which allowed British viewers to select the poems that meant the most to them in their lives.
Meanwhile, I’ve always read and enjoyed poetry as a way of helping me make decisions or understand my emotional life as well as for its own sake. Once, when I was agonising over whether or not to change my career and make a leap from a large company to a small one where I was a lot less well-known and comfortable, it took “The Big Decision” by C P Cavafy to help me make up my mind.
Poetry is officially therapeutic – a study by Robin Phillips of the Bristol Royal Infirmary observed 196 people with emotional problems and found that two thirds of them felt better after reading or listening to poetry.
But I didn’t need official studies when I started working on my anthology series, with 101 Poems That Could Save your Life and the others that followed. What I had found from working on the BBC´s Nation´s Favourite Love Poems programme and the book that accompanied it was that readers (and viewers) today are as passionate about poetry as I am and they welcome a way of looking at poems that feels fresh and attuned to the trials and tribulations of modern life.
My books help you to deal with every day situations as diverse as a bad hair day, being dumped, being late or computers breaking down while tackling the big problems and dilemmas of life: why we are here, why men and women fail to understand one another, why love is so difficult and how to accept the fact that nothing (except perhaps poetry!) lasts forever.
Of course my books, and the latest Essential Poems BBC TV series have often homed in on love as a subject – to paraphrase Yeats, poetry is written by young men and women tossing and turning in their beds – but I hope it has showed that there is no subject, be it great or trivial, that doesn’t find a home in a poem.