Sunday, May 30, 2004

My answers to Tom Beckett's questions on why people write poetry

Tom Beckett asked a couple of days ago for people to comment on why they wrote poetry. My answers below.

1) What inspires you to write poetry in both the short- and long-term? In other words: what gets you started, and what keeps you going?

I write poetry because I can. This is not the glib or simplistic answer it may seem at first glance. It is a statement of fact. But once you accept that fact then your thoughts, your vision(s) become clouded by it. I once wrote “there is a poem / in everything.” I still believe it although I must admit that timing & the angle of reflection/refraction play their part. I do not believe that you write because you have something to say for we all have something to say, can all find something to say. We write because we can, because we enjoy it, because we have the opportunity. It matters to us; & if we find that what we do moves other people then that is a bonus.

2) Is poetry the primary genre that you work within? If so, why? If not, why?

Poetry is my primary genre because it is what I am most comfortable with plus I am writing for myself. That said, what I have learnt from writing poetry spills over into what I write for other people – manuals, proposals, reviews, university assignments when I was doing them, etc. Writing poetry can be as hard & as frustrating as any of these & often not as self-satisfying, but it is a challenge you have chosen for yourself.

3) Do you believe that a poet has any special sort of social responsibility?

Yes. I believe all poetry to be political. & social. They relect our views, our stance on life, no matter what we are writing about. Maybe not overtly so but given the opportunity we should speak out. We should not subjugate what we believe to be right when we write.

4) What does writing poetry do for you? Why does poetry matter?

It keeps me sane, it drives me mad. It is the only time I ever take risks. I can think of no better answer than to point to my alltime favourite poem, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Constantly risking absurdity & death…”.

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