A correspondent tells me that the poet Anthony Hecht said, “If you think you have something important to say, you shouldn’t be a poet. But if you have a way with words, if you like tinkering with them, maybe you should.”
Personally, I think it’s the other way around. Real poets have something important to say. Tinkerers tink.
“Royal Babylon,” a 60-page poem written in richly detailed, unrhymed stanzas of four lines each, damning the absurd idea of royalty and its privileges, most particularly the British monarchy, which Heathcote regarded as privately sordid and on a planetary scale criminal. It’s the sort of poem likely to be remembered as a historical marker. The words have a ferocious theme. Tinkering wouldn’t make the least bit of difference.
(And btw, there’s no chance in hell that Oprah Winfrey will pick up where he left off.)
Postscript: March 10 — In all the press coverage I have seen of the interview, it has been treated as a tale of personal tragedy, a terrible racist family squabble, for the British royals — but not one mention of the larger tragedy at the heart of “Royal Babylon,” namely the immense damage caused by the monarchy’s greedy, rapacious treatment of peoples and nations the world over.
In the year of the Queen's Jubilee tourists peered as usual Through the railings of Buckingham Palace, But her fairy-tale was fading; the fairy queen's wings were being clipped By the Sex Pistols putting monarchy in their sights. "God save the queen," they sang, "it's a fascist regime." And the song's hook-line became a new anthem —— Disturbing to clutches of flag-wavers lining the streets. And horrifying to Middle England and the Daily Mail.