Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The rootlessness of professional poets...?

In his recent blog post about the relationship between his verse and his day job, Tim Love remarks on how many young U.K. poets are forced to chase residencies and short-term contracts from place to place. He highlights their consequent sense of disconnection.

I would argue that many professional poets do actually feel a sense of community, via their colleagues and social media, etc. However, I'm not at all sure whether such physical or virtual surroundings are entirely beneficial to their verse. I can think of several examples of such poets whose early work I enjoyed far more than later books. I admired them when their poetry was anchored in experiences and a feeling of belonging that necessarily lie beyond academia.

Let's take a successful young poet with poems in top-notch mags and a well-received first collection. What's the next step? This is not just a question of careers: the course of a whole life depends on such choices.

Is poetry a vocation or a job? Will an alternative career take over or leave time to write? Will creativity be boosted or stunted by the constant company of other poets? Will an unusual approach end up being over-rounded and homogenised or will it be honed and perfected?


  1. So many interesting questions and things to consider here, Matthew. Look what constant touring did to the pianist John Odgon. Perhaps that's too extreme an example though! As for the questions raised in the last paragraph, we shall see. There is a difference between 'poeting' and being a 'poet,' although being active may fuel the poetry when you do finally sit still.

  2. I think it very much depends on how you operate. For example, I don't need a lot of time to write. I just need to let time go by and stuff happen before I'm ready to write!