Funny business, this non-business blogging. I started writing regularly on this site about four years ago, and I admit I sometimes check to see how many people are reading it. As of tonight there have been over forty-two thousand hits. I imagine that isn’t a lot compared to say, a few seconds on One Direction’s website.
Sometimes I’m curious to see where the hits might come from. Today I have readers from the USA, Ireland and the Czech Republic. I can’t say, search engines being rather mysterious, what led these readers here or how they found this site. And I’m aware that some may have arrived here by mistake. But when I am not taking the Internet for granted I’m amazed and humbled that it allows me to communicate across continents, even across the road.
When thinking about not taking technology for granted I remembered a visit to a friend who was living in a remote part of Britain. When I knocked on the door, bottles in a bag clinking in my hand, I had forgotten to turn off the headlights of my car. The next morning as we connected the crocodile-clips from his battery to mine and fired up the engine, I remember my friend saying ‘Isn’t it great? I’ve never got over the fact I can turn a key and I can go anywhere.’
This memory makes me laugh. I laugh because my friend was still in awe and appreciative of something that I suspect most people never think about unless, perhaps, it fails.
A lot of the daily hits I get on this blog are on the pieces I have written on submitting poetry to magazines, assembling a pamphlet, drafting poems and dealing with rejection. From the comments I’ve received I get the impression that there is a need for writing of this kind. I know that Peter Sanson’s ‘Writing Poems’ was important to me not so long ago because I had not a clue as to what I was doing (writing poems) why I was attracted to it, or what to do with or about it. It was a book that confirmed to me that writing poems didn’t make me a freak (or perhaps confirmed to me that I might be and that I wasn’t alone) So thank you, Peter.
When I see how many hits a particular post has had I sometimes go and read it. Tonight I read my post on drafting poems. It appeared to have been written by somebody else, not because I disagreed with what I had written, but because, almost like a poem, I had no idea where this assured writer had got the confidence to put these ideas down. I’m glad he/I did.
I need to be reminded of the things I’ve found important enough to try to write about, and, on three or four occasions I’ve been approached by poets who teach, poets whose work I admire, and asked if they could use some of the material I’ve posted here. Richard Bach wrote ‘We teach best what we need to learn’.
These poet educators had the grace and courtesy to ask me if they could utilise my material. They didn’t have do this, since my writing was freely available on the web, and of course I was delighted that they wanted to share what I’d written with their students. This has led me to believe that some of this material might make a good ‘How to be a poet’ book and maybe some of it will. But I don’t expect such a book will make me rich. And this leads me on to another point.
I write reviews and quite often read my poems for no fee. There is always some debate amongst poets about the wisdom of reviewing and performing, and even offering poems for publication, without being paid. Of course I have sympathy for this view. I work very hard on my reviews, sometimes spending days on them. But no amount of wanting to be paid will result in me being paid or make the experience of writing the review any more or less pleasurable. If I have a bit of time, like and respect the magazine that has approached me, want to be paid in free books and relish the challenge of writing about them as best I can, I’m your man. And no amount of not being paid will stop me doing what I do. As for readings, I love them. This might mean I make a two hundred mile round trip and end up out-of-pocket. People at the reading might tell me they loved my work. But this doesn’t mean I should expect people to mob me to buy my book. They may have already paid to gain entry. They may have just enough in their pocket to buy a drink. So their appreciation and the time they take to tell me of it, is priceless, literally. And sometimes that means I’ll end up getting home at one in the morning hungry and with and empty petrol tank and pockets thinking ‘Art for art’s sake. Money for God’s sake.’
And it’s ok.
Don’t get me wrong, I could do with the money. But I’m doing what I love and it adds an unquantifiable quality to my life. I’m also aware, in the wider context, that dedicated people are looking after our elders and many of them are not even being paid the minimum wage. It’s not right, but until the bankers and the politicians and every man and woman walks out into the sunlight and says ‘Hey, pay the carers and cleaners enough to live on. Without them, nothing works,’ I don’t think I’ll harbour any illusions about getting paid for what I can’t help doing because I love doing it. Is this controversial? I’m not sure. In any case, I’m glad that people are using some of my writing as resource. I wrote the things I wrote because I had the impulse to examine and share a few thoughts about the thing’s that complicate, fascinate , and enrich my life. Thanks for reading.