Well, hello there 2014! Fancy meeting you here! What? Yes, of COURSE we’re going to be filling you up with more answers from writers of poetry about why they do that sort of thing anyway. As a matter of fact, I’ve got an answer right here – from long-time online poetry maven Mr. John Tranter.
The be-Jacketed one has taken inspiration from both blackbird fancier Wallace Stevens and current internet listicle trends and provided a sequence of seven different answers to the question. And here they are:
John Tranter says:
Why Do I Write Poetry? Seven Attempts at an Answer
1. When I was young I tried my hand at lots of creative practices: drawing, painting, playing the trumpet badly, studying history, studying religion, studying psychology, studying poetry, studying literature, arguing all night, writing poetry, writing short stories… As I grew older it seemed that writing poetry was what I happened to do best, so gradually the other things dropped into the background, to some extent, and poetry pushed its way to the foreground of my attention.
2. When I was sixteen I won five pounds first prize for the best poem published in the annual yearbook of my school, Hurlstone Agricultural High School. That was about a week’s wages then, and the poem had only taken an hour or so to write. “Jesus, this is better than farming!” I cried, and I wrote poetry furiously from then on.
3. When I was young, poetry seemed a way to intensify the perception of a kind of luminous reality that lay just behind the veil of appearances. Poetry, meditation, falling in love, hangovers, drugs… they all had this effect. As I grew older I realised that this was a phase not unconnected with the blizzard of hormones my body was producing. Mandrax did similar things, and dexedrine was more effective and reliable, though it had terrible side effects. Poetry doesn’t seem to have any side effects except – because it forces you to spend inordinate amounts of time for many decades doing complicated and useless things with words, which renders you virtually unemployable – making you very poor for the rest of your life. Then again, that’s a rather serious side effect, no?
4. One day I realised that I wrote better poetry than most people who wrote poetry. I felt an obligation to keep it up, and to keep developing so they would never catch up.
5. I’m going to die in a decade or so. I would rather leave lots of strange and beautiful poems behind than lots of life insurance. Though my children, struggling to survive and live well in a difficult world, might well disagree. Poetry is a rather selfish occupation.
6. It’s fun.
7. Why not?
Adam Ford was co-editor of Going Down Swinging issues #18-#22 and is author of poetry collections The Third Fruit is a Bird, Not Quite the Man for the Job, the novel Man Bites Dog and Heroes and Civilians (short stories).