I was at a thing recently. Not my thing, a good thing.
Luminosity filled the evening. In the pouring of wine and of men and women tilting their heads and laughing. Children ran between people’s legs, not knowing they were at a thing.
Poets were there, the ones I love and trust. It was perfect.
I found myself holding forth (as you do) on the theme of wishing X (this blog does not name names) would publish more of their poetry. More than one book a century, I heard myself say. (As I say, there was wine).
As I warmed to my theme the names of half a dozen poets passed in front of my eyes. The poets I buy on spec, for no other reason than because. Poets I would travel to see. Poets who have rescued me, with words and with flowers. Poets I have talked deeply with. (You know who they are).
Poets whose new work I wouldn’t mind seeing on a daily basis, if possible. And yet which seems to come around so rarely. (Perhaps my new year resolution will be to write each of them a fan letter explaining why).
As I said yesterday, I don’t buy it any more when poets aren’t regularly supplying me with my fix of their amazingness. I want their poems, and I want them now, preferably by breakfast, with my morning coffee. It is no longer enough to hide behind the excuse of the exhausted/worn-out muse/well-spring. What does Mo Farah do the day after he runs his marathon? He goes out training. Even Eddie Izzard does it. And he can’t even run.
I like Dean Young’s advice on this subject: ‘Some people try to convince you poetry is so important you have no business trying to write it without severe indoctrination. But POETRY CAN’T BE HARMED BY PEOPLE TRYING TO WRITE IT! The billions of MFA programs and community creative writing workshops and summer conferences and readings, all of it is a great sign of health, that the imaginative life is thriving and important, and worthy of time and attention, worthy of conditions in which it is honored and encouraged to wildly grow. It’s not a marketplace where the bad forces out the good.’
‘Encouraged to wildly grow.’ Isn’t that great? It’s worth saying again. ‘Encouraged to wildly grow.’ (It becomes its own poem on the tongue). Let us make that the culture we leave to our children: encouraged to wildly grow. No to the marketplace, no to indoctrination, and no to fear of failure!
So: Poets (you know who you are): We Need More Of Your Poems! Now! Don’t be Philip Larkins tidily putting out one thin book after another in ten-year gaps. Be Neruda! Write about everything. Spill. Get muddy. I want a sonnet (actually, I don’t care what shape it comes in) about tango and love and blue notebooks and a woman you once saw on the Underground (it does not have to rhyme) which somehow finishes with an image of the sea. By tomorrow. Not by tomorrow. By tonight. Turn off Facebook! Get to work!