The first major cultural phenomenon of the twenty-first century?

A mythology?

An addiction?

A world incomprehensible to most adults?

A miracle of marketing?

All these, sometimes, but above all, an intricate hypertext, of trading cards, TV cartoons, films, computer games, fighting coins and more.

An industry, on the scale of Disney, but more attuned to the twenty-first century. There is no primary product. With Disney the film comes first, and the toys and games are based on that. But what is the Pokemon primary product?

The accusation is made: Pokemon makes a profit from children. Yes. So do toy manufacturers, fast-food retailers, children's book publishers, and schoolteachers. Pokemon takes money from children - but children are canny consumers, not passive morons. They buy what they desire, and ignore what they don't need. Think of the mountain of unsold Star Wars tie-in produce that children refused to pester their parents for last Christmas. Think of the titanic failure of the new movie by the kiddie-oriented singing group All Saints (even with the fail-safe youth-attractor of an 18 certificate). No, it doesn't get us far to see children as the helpless victims of a Pokemon industry. They participate in the Pokemon project because it gives something valuable to them.

Snakeskin poet K.M.Payne was drawn into this alternative universe by the enthusiasm of his son, Spencer. His poems celebrate the benign but exciting world of Pokemon in its astonishing mythic vitality.

Meanwhile the British papers (and we presume some abroad) try to fan the traditional moral panic that flickers every time young people are enthusiastic about something. Children who remain resolutely impervious to the bland worthiness of the National Curriculum are able to give detailed and excited accounts of eccentric monsters, rare cards and exotic evolutions. So something must be wrong. The papers run horror stories about children being beaten up for their Pokemon cards, so headteachers ban the cards from school. Next time a child has his lunchbox stolen, will they ban eating?

It's possible that sometimes the enthusiasm of the young goes too far. We at Snakeskin do not endorse the behaviour of the young man in Holland who swapped his baby sister for a rare card.

But we do think there is something here worth exploring, a mythology whose resonance is not to be despised by poets.

If you find the poems incomprehensible, K.M.Payne's Beginners' Guide may be useful.

{short description of image}