The more I talk about writing with students, teachers, colleagues and other writers, the less I am sure that we are all speaking about the same thing. If I am on the phone to poet Cliff Yates, for example, whom I have known and been talking to about poetry for years, we soon slip into a kind of shorthand about reading and writing poetry that may be indecipherable to anyone who is not familiar with contemporary poetry and poetics.

The same is true when I swap notions about development in poetry writing with another friend and colleague, Sue Dymoke. As with Cliff, even though we have been having this conversation on and off for more than fifteen years, it can still feel as if we are dealing in pure abstraction, our ideas tantalisingly out of reach. I have had this same feeling at conferences; in lecture theatres, seminars and workshops; in audiences of hundreds to mere handfuls; and on listening to beginner-writers and the famous alike…

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