From time to time I have a trawl through my folders of old failed work on the off chance that some piece or extract might be worth reworking or set off a new spark.
Doing so this weekend, I realised how key themes, techniques and tones have developed in my work. Only now can I spot my first clumsy gropings towards them a few years ago.
Larkin was keen to insist on his disavowal of a poet's obligation to develop, but he also admitted that his percentage of failures didn't drop with time, in itself a recognition that we mustn't stagnate or repeat ourselves if we're going to be creative. I use this argument when wrestling with my current poetic messes: the encouraging aspect of the process is that maybe, just maybe, they are staging posts on the way to somewhere new and as yet unknown.
If 2017 was a lean year for poetry, as someone has said, I can’t say I noticed. Daljit Nagra’s *The British Museum* (Faber) introduced a clear-eyed, poli...