I admit to not having kept up with global events; I haven’t devoted much time, for example, to understanding the complexity of the various conflicts that are being fought in the middle east. In the west Trump was elected in the USA, and his appointment and subsequent behaviour has been fascinating to watch. There is a general election campaign currently being fought in the UK. Somewhat to my surprise I’ve found myself following debates and reading manifestos and articles.
I am acutely aware of the social media ‘bubble’ in which one only sees and hears opinions from others with similar views, but I do find it interesting to follow-up on what people are writing and see if I can find a ‘reliable’ primary source. For example, someone on Facebook or Twitter might post that the current government is planning to sell off publicly held assets at half the market value. Rather than accepting this and re-sharing it I will try to find and read the original report and find the section relating to this. If a politician (any politician) is quoted as having said something, I will
sometimes find myself looking for their speech or comment rather than relying on a quote taken out of context or manipulated in some way by the secondary source. All this is interesting, addictive, enlightening, dispiriting, uplifting and above all time-consuming. I have even spent some time trying to ‘convert’ a true believer in the opposite party to the one I will be supporting, by sending them articles and arguments to support my position. This proved futile since no amount of reasoning would cause the person to deviate from their ( in my view) unsubstantiated and uniformed view. I challenged them to provide reasons in the face of my reasons, and when it came down to the fact they were relying on ‘gut feeling’ I walked away. Questioning my motivations I realised that it was partly egoism that had caused me to argue with them in the first place. I had faith in my ability to reason and research and in my own moral certainty. But above all I wanted to prove these things and ‘win’ . Ridiculous.
What with ‘life’- a job, a family etc- there has not been much time for reading or writing poems.
Then there’s the gardening….
And maybe my current obsession with UK politics isn’t the only reason for my lack of writing. My second book was published a couple of months ago, this coming only a few years after the last which was published a year after my first pamphlet. Over the course of five years or so I sent out poems to publications, anthologies, and the occasional competition. I think over two hundred were published in some form or other. For the first time in years I have no poetry submissions out for consideration. Deadlines for competitions I’ve made a note to enter come and go. I have politely refused offers to review books. I don’t feel the need to devour poetry magazines. With a few exceptions (I love Emily Blewitt’s new collection from Seren, ‘This is Not a Rescue’ and am delighted to be mentioned in the acknowledgements, ) I don’t feel the need to get hold of many new poetry books.
This webpage too, has been going for a few years, and I hope that many of the posts have been and continue to be useful to those who are starting to submit poems or give readings. I didn’t intend to provide a comprehensive ‘How to’ guide – after all, it is for each poet to invent their own way of being a poet – but I did want to contribute a little of my own experience in the hope it might prove useful.
With regard to poetry then, I have been wondering ‘Where am I now?’ I have a poem in the next issue of a good magazine, a few others due to be published in anthologies, ( both these submitted last year ) and a few readings booked for this year and next. I am certainly not writing as much, whatever the reasons, but have been working intermittently on a handful of new poems.
I am also looking into working in schools, since it seems to me there is a great need to make things interesting and to engage the creativity of children in what can be a very prescribed and rigid educational environment.
At the moment, I am comfortable with this situation. I trust my own process. When I am ready, I’ll write again. The prospect of creating and being lost and found in writing again is exciting. It feels like there are undiscovered territories out there. At the moment it feels like they are far away and that I will strike out for them when all is well at home (although I imagine ‘well’ is always a temporary state.) I know I need poetry in my life. As the poet Bei Dao said, “On the one hand poetry is useless. It can’t change the world materially. On the other hand it is a basic part of human existence and what makes human beings human.”