Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Time to write?

Yesterday I tasted the tank of Zaleo that we'll be bottling on Friday, scheduled the loading of our extra virgin olive oil for China, proofread the copy of a new back label, processed a couple of orders for Germany and Belgium, cooked lunch, made the bed, helped David with his maths homework, played tennis and wrote the first draft of a poem.

This space for poetry to be written couldn't have happened without all the rest. That's because the poem had been working through my head for weeks, waiting for the right moment to pop out, just when I'd been bombarded with enough stimulation and was ready to grab a hour on my own with a pen and notebook (never a screen!).

In other words, I fail to write anything when I've got otherwise empty days on my hands. I just lounge about, wasting time. And what about if poetry/creative writing were my day job? After going through students' work in tutorials, marking, sorting out funding applications, etc, etc, the last thing on my mind would be creating verse myself. Unless I ended up writing about that very world of poetry I inhabited. Which would be worse. I can only admire those poets who manage to produce excellent stuff in such circumstances and even seem to thrive.

Poetry is my escape valve, a counterpoint to obligations yet intrinsically and intimately linked to my everyday life. I treasure it.


  1. Like Wallace Stevens. And as an editor once said to me, "James, you are lucky to write what you want to write, rather than writing because you have to for money." - I am about to change sides and become a tutor; will tell you what my experience is like!

    1. Hi James,

      Thanks for commenting. Please do let me know how you get on: it seems to work superbly for some, but it would have destroyed my writing.

  2. Not only that, but because there's less pressure (professionally, or for self-validation reasons) for you to produce poems, there's less chance of your work being ... tainted. In academia there's the "Least publishable unit" concept - see . It's naive to squander loads of good ideas in one piece when those ideas could have been shared out amongst several pieces. I sense this tendency in mid-career poetry books too - sequences, variations on themes, etc, help ideas go further.

    I'm currently drafting a blogpost contrasting the situation of poets who've already achieved in non-lit fields (for sake of argument Stephen Payne) with poets in a hurry to get Creative-Writing-lectureship tenure (perhaps sacrificing family confidentiality, etc, because of a shortage of raw material), but it's a sensitive issue.

    1. Hi Tim,

      Thanks for commenting. I agree entirely. Good luck with that post: you'll need tact by the truckload!