How is the poetry going?’ my colleague asks.
I hope that will always be my answer. Because poetry is in my life for good; we’ve been together for years. Poetry brings me presents when I’m not expecting them. It’s brought me images in bed. We play together. We sit quietly doing nothing. We work out. Sometimes, it sulks and won’t talk to me for days. Weeks even. It becomes preoccupied. We obsess over detail and argue until we have to walk away for a while. Sometimes we are passionate about each-other to the exclusion of all else. I confide in poetry and it confides in me. We go for walks and drives. We get too busy to see each other. We are ships in the night. We delight each other. We share secrets and jokes. We have a thing for mountains. We share memories we haven’t shared with anyone else yet. We have big ideas and plans. We show off to each-other and reign in each other’s excesses. We have a laugh. We travel. We argue over the best way to proceed. We research together and develop new enthusiasms. We learn together. We talk about life and death and things we wouldn’t tell anyone else. In its absence, I’ve wondered, in those lonely, self-pitying, neglected times, if poetry is having an affair. Equally, I’ve been cool and calm and got on with my life. The reunions have been marvellous. And after arguments, the getting back together is, well….
To return to the question: I wonder if the person meant ‘How is the writing going?’ The answer could change on a daily, or hourly, or minute by minute basis. Anything could happen. But basically, I know the writing is going to be OK. Poetry and I have been together too long to worry about our highs and lows too much. Even when we are not communicating, we feel each other’s presence. We’ve been through so much. We’ll always have Paris, even though we made that particular Paris up.
If looked at in another way, the question might refer to publications, readings, book sales, the stuff that comes with sharing, or trying to share ones poetry. And my answer might be ‘Hmm, not much happening at the moment ‘ or ‘Good thanks, I had a reading last week. The venue was great. The people were great. If I never read again I’ll be happy. I didn’t fall over on my way to the microphone.’ But I know that in a month, or four or five, I’ll be fretting about not having any readings. Not that I’ve tried very hard to get any (I’m working on this.)
Publications come and go. But the latest ‘Success’ or ‘failure’ wears off soon enough. This week’s publication or returned poem will soon be last month’s
publication or returned poem. I’ll either be flushed with ‘success’, quietly getting on with things or hankering to be noticed again.
Poetry knows all about my insecurities, vanities, ego driven actions. It nods sagely. It looks out of the window, not knowing what to say. Sometimes it feels embarrassed. But it knows I need to seek approval. It knows about my jealousy and generosity. It doesn’t get involved in that stuff. Poetry knows I’ll be driven back to it by no other motive than the fact I can’t help myself.
Poetry knows that all I really need is for the two of us to be alone, with no distractions. It knows it all comes down to us.