Sunday, August 13, 2006

Why do people write?

I am really interested in why people write. It worries me also. I recently read in 101 ways to make poems sell that poets need to ask themselves this, but also why should anyone pay money to read my work? Why do I think they will? I need to spend some time thinking about this, as I don't think it is something poets initially think about. What they are thinking about is how to make their poems good, make them work, then comes the question about how commercial they are, and where they fit in when they think about getting a publisher. For a long time I believed writing poems that sell meant compromising what I wanted to write about, and how. I thought about the poets that do well commercially, and the biggest name I could think of was John Hegley. So this made me think to write poems that people will want to read they have to be

a) funny
b) rhyme.
c) Come in a package with a good/cool/or somehow otherwise appealing look
d) That this package must contain some form of likeable personality

I think there is an element of truth in this, in the sense that some poets will receive more readers because they seem non threatening, media friendly, and mostly write poems that are accessible and create the illusion to readers that they themselves could write something like that. But this is an over-simplification. (John Hegley is in many ways a bad example of what I want to say, as I actually really like his work, but am constantly surprised when I see people laugh at it. Ok, I admit I do have a problem laughing out loud in public, but when I have seen Mr Hegley read there are times I will be thinking that a poem is painful sounding, sad or something in it is plain unfair and the audience will be laughing along quite merrily. - This brings up somethingelse about comedy, and its essence- do people not see, do they choose not to? Is everyone cruel? Or is JH tapping into the truth that one of the functions of comedy is to provide relief where it is needed. Something has to be done, and it's better to laugh than cry - except I am out of the loop with that one.) I think about the people I know who buy poetry and they are not only buying John Hegley. They buy a range of comtemporary poetry, in different styles, with diffferent subject matter and voices. As my work is now approaching being a collection I need to think about what it might have to offer a publisher, who might read it, how, and why, which is new to me in many ways.

A colleague recently told me they had written a list of what they want to acheive in their writing and how they intend to go about it. This scared the hell out me , because I am not sure how I can create a similar list, and how to go about anything that I would like for my work. But I do need to think about it. I'm horrifed, but am going to try and compile a similar list sometime this week, to see what it does.


Gill said...

I can't NOT write poetry. It makes me ill if I don't, physically and mentally.

angela said...

i think that's the best reason I've heard for writing poetry. No vanity involved. No BS. Whyelse wouldwe do it to ourselves!?

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About Me

Poetry is like having an imaginary friend, who still forgets your birthday.