Sunday, April 09, 2006

Poetry eMotion

My friends at Verberate have taken my live recording of the other week and put it on their website as "featured writer" for which I'm humbly grateful. A few remarks... I was horribly nervous when I did the reading, and felt I'd chosen the wrong poems for the occasion; but I did know they were poems I could read without fumbling too much, and I hope I did that. Listening to them, as well, I realise both my strengths and limitations. As a poet, my "unit of measurement" seems to be the sentence, and that's not what most poetry works with - its more rhythm, phrase, stanza etc. I think, equally humbly, this is why I've never been quite "got" by any poetry establishment going. It's a little about voice, I guess - not the way you write, or speak so much as how you sound in your head - your own emotional/literary connection with the world. My sort of poetry is attempting to be something that it's not; and really it should be something that it is. Also, my poetry, being essentially narrative (all those 4 poems have some narrative to them), has to take that fact into account. The question: what is poetry? comes into this. In this weeks Guardian we had Jackie Kay writing about her father; as did, in a very different way, John Burnside recently; and choosing prose - an article, a memoir - to do this. And then we have Robert Potts talking about literary magazines, particularly the online Jacket; yet not really acknowledging how closed these particular shops are as well. I'm interested, and intrigued by all this. Poetry requires, like anything else, some degree of success; so a poet like Alice Oswald, who, to be frank, was never mentioned in any dispatches until "Dart" was so successful, can have her own poetic "land grab." In other words, its only at the point that you are asked to write about poetry for the Guardian, or collected in some Bloodaxe anthology, or play that particular game, that you are officially "poetry." On the other hand, there's the whole performance poetry thing which gets along very well in its own world, thank you, but requires a certain "balls" to do it, and do it well. Who knows where all this leads to? If I get asked to read my poetry I will; and then, maybe, we'll see if I'm a poet - until then, I'm not sure; maybe I just write a different kind of prose. I'm trying to work out these contradictions. In the mean time, my muse is somewhat silent. I'll keep you posted.

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