T.S. Eliot, John Donne, Benjamin Zephaniah, Wilfred Owen, Philip Larkin, William Blake, William Butler Yeats, John Betjeman, John Keats and Dylan Thomas.T.S.Bleedin' Eliot? Impenetrable,exotic, esoteric, academic, he may be the choice of an intellectual minority, but national favourite? Never in a million years. John Donne, now there's a truly great poet whose works are on a bookshelf in this room. Benjamin Zephaniah is by all accounts a decent enough chap but he doesn't come within a country mile of Donne. Owen is accessible and moving, Betjeman a lightweight, more vaudeville than serious poet. Keats, along with the other romantics, eased my teenage years (but he knew bugger-all about wine; 'beaded bubbles winking at the brim' and a 'purple-stained mouth' suggest that he needed to try a new off-licence.
As I go about my business tomorrow I shall ask a few random people if they can name a single Eliot poem, and if they can, to quote me a line of it. And if anyone comes up with 'Cats', a self-indulgent piece of tosh patronisingly tossed off by a bored old academic, I may not be responsible for my actions.
Mind you, many of the greats could falter. Even Wordsworth perpetrated this:-
SPADE! with which Wilkinson hath tilled his lands,