I have just returned from a trip to Switzerland where I was judging a poetry recitation competition in the most expensive school in the world.

My first evening there I was half-amused to have Picasso’s grandson or great-grandson serve me chocolate soufflé and I must say that a Rodin performed so well during the competition itself that he almost received a prize.

As the Head of English, a Cambridge graduate, drove me in his old Jaguar XJS to my hotel I was perhaps not very surprised to hear that in his time at the school not a single student had expressed any interest in studying literature at Oxford or at any UK university for that matter. I suppose that when your family’s rich enough for you to go to that school you need to get a business degree at university, if you go at all, unless your grandfather or great-grandfather is Picasso perhaps.

I’m sure that this situation is of little or no concern to Oxford University’s Undergraduate Admissions Office and its valuable Widening Access and Participation.

My recent trip to Switzerland could hardly be classed as ‘outreach’ as it would have, had I been visiting a school in Lancashire or Hackney. What good might possibly come of me explicating the visionary truths of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to a scion of the sixth richest family in Europe and his playboy-to-be classmates?

The poetry recitation competition was the idea of a young visionary I had met when I was introducing my latest book to a small group of International Baccalaureate teachers last October. But that the competition was approved at all was due to the fact that the headmaster of the school has a degree in English from Oxford. I applaud his defence of poetry memorization and recitation against those who think such activities a dull thing.

I found the event unexpectedly inspiring. One or two younger lads gave theatrical, even slightly unnerving, renditions of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, the odd sixth former performed Sylvia Plath with angst or aplomb, and inevitably some students teamed up to perform poems by Carol Ann Duffy, or even T. S. Eliot, as if they were members of S Club 7. I was most impressed by an intense and meaningful rendition of William Blake’s ‘London’, the girl’s Russian accent not obscuring but heightening the high loneliness of her passionate intensity.

I was properly enchanted by the experience. By taking poems out of the classroom and into their heads, these students had plugged themselves into the oral origins of poetry. They had made themselves part of our oldest tradition, in a kind of renewal of divine revelation in time.

"There are two ways of disliking art," Oscar Wilde once said. "One is to dislike it. The other, to like it rationally."

I was lucky enough to be tutored at Oxford by William Wordsworth’s great-great-nephew who did not dislike poetry and did not like it rationally either, as far as I could tell. I like to think that he would have been benevolently bemused by the S Club 7-style renditions of Eliot I sat through in that posh school’s brand new giant dome in Switzerland. I also like to think that the very richest as well as the very poorest, along with all of the rest of us, deserve to think that they can apply for such tuition.