Thursday, April 21, 2005

Self portrait in 30 statements

I've just posted this at the Moontown Cafe poetry forum:

I believe that biography is incidental: knowing what someone has done, where, and when, gives little indication of how they think or feel
I am British (English; I have lived in Wales for 10 years)
I am 43 and married and have three children, aged 12, 8 and 4, two boys, one girl
We have two long-lived goldfish, and a stray cat we feed but don't like because he attacks people at random
I was born in Northern England but grew up in various places in the Midlands and Southwest.
I went to Cambridge University, ostensibly to study Archaeology but spending a lot of time writing etc
I used to write a lot of songs (which still shows up in my poems where I will treat "mine/ time" and "home/alone" as if they rhyme), but gave up when I realised that I couldn’t sing
I still can't
I worked as an archaeologist for 20 years. This involved a lot of technical writing and editing. I spent all my time trying to make the reports clearer and shorter. This has rubbed off on my taste in poetry.
My favourite living poet is Wendy Cope
My favourite dead poet is Philip Larkin, despite his personal faults
I have some time for Eliot and Auden; I have no time for Dylan Thomas
I am now creating a website summarising all the archives in Wales. This also involves making sure text is short and clear
I hate unnatural word order to fit a rhyme
I don't like poems which tell me what colour the flowers are. It's usually padding.
I don't like poems that mystify pointlessly. If I want a puzzle I pick up a crossword.
I believe a poem should be readable in one attempt, even if you then go on thinking about it
I believe writing a poem is a literary act, not unfiltered self-expression. Or at least it should be, if the poet is doing their job.
I like poems that impart hard-won wisdom
I am interested in Greek and Roman mythology and use it in my poems but don't know that much about it
I try to write in very difficult forms and give the appearance of ease
I cut my drafts to pieces to get to a final version
I try to be funny if possible: there are enough serious poems in the world
I have published a handful of poems in very obscure places
I believe most poets find it helpful to be told : "this line doesn't work"
I believe that they find it more helpful to be told "it doesn't work because . . . "
I believe that most helpful of all is "what about this, or that?"
I accept that these beliefs may be wrong
My poetry is on my other blog, Complete and Utter Poetry.


sic said...

I did not know most of those facts. The 'Anne' mentioned in my site just graduated with a Bachelors in Classical archaeology (with a focus on Greece). She's headed to England next month to check out grad schools, including (I think) Cambridge. Then she's off to a two-month dig on Crete. Hopefully she'll be writing about her adventures as she goes.

Anonymous said...

" I did not know most of those facts. "

Hmm, not too surprising. I'm his brother and I didn't know half of that lot.

Oh, and are opinions facts? "I think that cloud is pretty". Is that a fact? It might be fact that I think it, but that still doesn't make the cloud pretty, or not.

And why does anyone think that Larkin's porn collection (etc) affects the reputation of his poems? If I live a life of perfect rectitude and write dross is that somehow better dross than if I were a scumbag?



martin said...

An opinion is not a fact; that someone holds that opinion is.

I don't say I think Larkin's poetry is affected by what we now know of his private life. I was writing for an American audience and wished to preempt the argument that it would be or should be. To me, anyone who can read his poetry and come away with the impression that he was a mild sexless recluse is mad or stupid or both; there is no dissonance between his private and public utterances, only variations in subject matter.

Having said that, I'm still left with the vague feeling that our opinion of poetry-as-communication-with-someone's-mind is affected by what we beleive about that mind: would those (not me) who think "I wandered lonely as a cloud" is a transcendent piece of poetry still feel the same if they found out he shagged a sheep on the way home?