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Source: Adults

Author: Bob Lakin

Title: Sports Sensation! Giant tomato wins London Marathon.

I kinda know what this feature is about..but you may get wind of it first.

We've all seen them. Those guys dressed up as monkeys and tomatoes at the beginning of the London Marathon. They wander around in a huge mob at the back, rubbing shoulders with any number of Elvis runalikes, tawdry batmen and the organised ranks of the banana tendency

Ahead of them stand another group..dressed oddly in running equipment, oiling their sinewy calves, checking and re-checking their pulse monitors. One last swig of perfectly tuned endocrine fluid supplement and they're off. They do this because they are elite runners. They wear white vests. They smell of sporty sparty oils.They do not dress as tomatoes. They are all called something foreign and they all know all about each other, are jealous of each other,watch each other,need each other. They win. They hug each other. Beautiful people kiss them and throw flowers.

Now, if you were going to trot along for some 26 miles, do you think it would be easier to be dressed as a runner or as a tomato?

Whilst you consider the answer to my question I will open this feature. Since it has been Christmas I have performed my annual pilgrimage of reading "The best American Poetry 2006" anthology. This year it is edited by Billy Collins and it really is a first class piece of work. If you want to write poetry you really should be looking at this material. While you are doing so you might like to be rubbing in some scented poetry oil, getting yourself a pair of professor specs, finding a job at a University and finding a wife or husband who is a poet, publisher or at least an arty journalist. If you spot anyone dressed as a tomato just sprint on by.

In between reading the anthology. I've been logging on to a couple of poetry websites which offer eye surgery,horoscopes,car insurance and online degrees. I think I've managed to buy one of each. What I was actually trying to do was read some American poetry. You can recognise the poetry because it is the dull written stuff and does not jump up and down in the corner of the screen or flash on and off like a dating agency advert trying to mimmick a bird of paradise in a mating frenzy.

One site describes itself as being for "the everyday poet". Well, indeed it is. They write every day, they write every night. Quite often they write several at once. There has never been so much poetry. Watching the frequency of new arrivals I was minded of my daily travails on the M25. Such is the crush that the factory managers try to slow down the production line in order to allow someone to review a new arrival before it slips off the page into oblivion. I suspect that some poems are stripped of their re-useable vowels as soon as they leave the factory and are fed straight back in to the panel presses. Some poems in the crowd have a slight tomato look about them..but often they are gone before you can get a take on the DNA.

By entering the chat rooms at the production facility you will hear plaintiff pleas for someone, ANYONE for Chrissake, to look at "My poem" You just don't have the heart to tell'em its already rusting in the junk yard with both of its rhyming couplets ripped off. Such is the turmoil and clamour for love and at least one reader, that huge bonuses are given to reviewers. It is possible to be awarded the rank of Poet Laureate complete with anorak patch badge just by doing reviews. So, if you are reviewing this thing (whatever it is) just be aware of that badge on my anorak OK.

So, let's talk about poetry. If you've had the determination to read this far you can probably bear just a little more. Poetry is that most curious substance. Everyone can recognise it...and no one can tell you what it is. It can appear in all manner of forms and places. It is on line, it is in books. The Daily tabloid would be lost if page 3 Suzie were not saucy and Cheryl was anything but cheeky. Inner thinner angst or fat juicy wet kiss rhyme, poetry lives. Different poets dress differently and expect different things of their seedlings. The way you dress will affect the way people look upon you. If you think that underneath your tomato suit you are a runner...start wearing a vest, rub in some oil.Tell people that you are an athlete. Believe! Read! Review!

And this is how it is. I want to say that I am approaching this subject as a serious life long reader of poetry. This gives me no special pleading. The matter I am addressing is that over the past few years the World has changed. The internet now allows all manner of folk to do, say, be, write or dream anything they want. And they do.

The fact is that an under-done burger flipper from Florida submitting 100 poems to a web site is unlikely to be chosen for the 2007 anthology. Quite probably few people will ever seriously read a word of what he says. I am genuinely sad about that. I do want to know this guy. The first question I'd ask when we met would be "Did you buy the 2006 anthology? Did you read 100 poems this year? Did you buy any poetry?"

It is not an issue of quality. It is an issue of experience, self image and training.The fact is that the 2006 anthology does not acknowledge the existence of the internet. All the contributors are from the small presses, the mags and the posh uni publishers. And why not indeed? This is where the clearly observable quality may be found. These guys can do it. The mags and publishers have already sifted, edited and imparted credibility and value to the content. Amongst the millions of jostling bananas, batmen and tomatoes at the back are any number of elite runners. We may never know who they are..but deep down, sweating with the frustration and longing for the scent of sporty sparty oils ...there are those who know...but are too shy to rip off the tomato suit and rub it in.

I've not been talking about the UK. We do do things a little differently. A true Brit does not want to win badges or rank. You are not going to tell me that we could not have retained the Ashes. Winning abroad is like going to a friend's house for a splendid dinner and leaving something ghastly bobbing about in the bathroom. This is not strictly relevant but I know people in Australia who clearly do not understand what it is to be a Brit.

You have been reading a kind of review. The "Best American Poetry 2006" Anthology is absoutely first class as always. It is published by Scribner and is available on Amazon.You can check out the flavour by logging on to www.bestamericanpoetry.com It would be presumptuous of me to give any qualitative judgement on any of these poems other than to admire them. Many of them gave me the same pleasure and insight that I find on writebuzz. This is not a throwaway line.

There is a difference beween a guy who is a great gifted writer,is often told so and who deep down believes it himself, who works as a poetry professor and the unemployed guy in Scunthorpe who wants to express his emotion about some element of his life and has always been told he was no good, to get a haircut and face up to hell at the call centre.. These two guys will write different kinds of poetry. But they are both poets. And if you think about it....who has the hardest journey? Who potentially has the story to tell?

If I try and distil the essence of this it would be that there is a lot in common between a bowl of minestrone and a Tesco extra thick budget vegetable soup. Even if the more flowery top poets have maximum strones in their mines, the mix is more refined, more rarified. I imagine them with longer fine skinned fingers. The guy from Scunthorpe gets it down thick..he knows you're probably hungry and may not be satifsfied if he doesn't give you a strong dollop. Bless him..don't you just love this guy.

The essential qualitative difference is one of restraint and judgement. It is possible to dilute a thick veg soup into minestrone but impossible to do the reverse. The emotional and spirtual value is at least as good in Tesco. The wheel is turning and my guess is that within my lifetime I will see a true laureate who built credibility on the net. It is something of an ambition of mine to meet him and show him my anorak. The point is .....that cred will come from peers. There will be pacemakers, lieutenants, friends and the politically aware members of the tomatorati. Those old guys are slow mo footage in black and white now. They've already crossed the line.

If I've offended anyone in Scunthorpe or America by calling them a minestrone or a value thick soup, I'm sorry. It's kinda tough being a tomato.

To order your tomatorati poet's specs and scented poet oil contact the writer on pen pals.

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