Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Why I'm bored of poetry

I'm getting to a point in my life where the thought of reading yet another poem by yet another poet fills me with a sense of ... what? Dread? Dispair? No, nothing that extreme, I think. Rather there's a sort of lassitude, resignation even, that creeps over me as I consider the prospect of diving into another poem.

I mean, some of these poems - they're such fucking hard work. There was a time when I would enjoy the challenge, seek it out. A battle between the brain of Rik and the words scattered across the page. There was a sense of fun in the work, a sense of achievement when I found new meaning and insight into the mind of another person through the text of their work.

But such moments seem to be getting rarer nowadays. Maybe it's the turning of the year that's getting to me. Maybe I just need to switch off for a couple of years, let the batteries recharge. I don't know ...

Mostly when I try to read a poem nowadays I find my thoughts drifting off after a few lines into an argument with the absent author. I'm asking questions about intent and purpose rather than concentrating on the images and juxtapositions and prosody and stuff.

What hurts most is that these same questions crop up when I try reading my own work.

"Why are you wasting my time with this?" is the most common question. "Where's the goods, the payoff?" is another, and "have you ever heard of having some fun?"

Hurtful, inappropriate questions, see. Questions that no poet should be forced to answer in this day and age of individualistic celebrity.

And still I ask them. And part of me wants every poet, everybody attempting to write a poem, to answer some of these questions as they tackle their latest masterpiece:

What's driving you to write this poem? Are you creating the news or reacting to it? Are you experimenting with ideas or offloading a bunch of lines from your ever-present notebook into the vehicle of a poem? Are your thoughs and emotions roiling as you write or is this an examination of past thoughts and emotions? Are you filling a quota? Another poem for today? Another filler piece for the sequence? Why write this poem? Why not write a different poem now? Why write the poem at all?

Who are you writing this poem for? Do you know who your audience is? Do you care? Am I part of the audience? Is the only audience that matters stuck inside your skull? Who are you trying to impress with this poem? Your teachers? Your peers? Your mother? You lover? The person you want to fuck? Your ego? The rotting, clotting, powdered dead poets of yesteryear?

If you don't care about audience, why am I reading this poem? Seriously, why?

What purpose does this poem serve? Will this poem change the world? Will the world care about this poem? What bits of the world? Do you want it to change the views of strangers? Do you want strangers to love you because of what you wrote? Or like you? Or respect you? Or care? Or maybe you want them to care about the poem's subject, perhaps? Will your poem stop the war, or cause a soldier or terrorist somewhere in the world to pause before they pull the trigger? Will it help a policeman empathise more with a rape victim? Will it help raise the levels of world empathy or sympathy? Will I care more? Understand more? Will your poem help make me a better person? Is it important to you that your poem should attempt to make me a better person? What if I don't want to be a better person? What if I want to read poems to entertain me? What if I want to read your poem for fun, enjoyment, satisfaction? Is that alright with you? Even if the poem fails to entertain? Do you care? Can you care?

Where will this poem end up? In a book? Is it your dream to publish a book, or are you happy to see this poem nestle among stranger's poems in a magazine or an anthology? Does that thought excite you, or scare you? Does the thought of people paying money to buy your poem excite you? What if they don't want to pay? What if they can't afford to pay? What is your view of the book or magazine in which your poem might appear? Is it a showcase for your words and thoughts and expertise, or a prison? What about online? Can you still respect your poem if it appears online some place? Can you still love your poem if nobody respects it through the exchange of coin? Do you care? Should you care? Should I care? Why?

I hate autumn. Too many questions; and no answers to be had in the scatter of leaves.

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