Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Versed in the World

He began writing poetry when he was twelve and started boarding away (a BIG move when you live out the back of beyond on a property and rarely see anyone)and then largely switched to writing song lyrics when he migrated from Western Australia to New South Wales some twenty three years later.

Being a poet is a funny vocation because any attempt to talk about what you do, and how you go about it, and you're accused of being pretentious. 'Poet' must be in the same class as auteur, philosopher, 'creative talent': almost as if you have to wait for some academic or newspaper critic (or publisher) to come along and validate your status. It can be frustrating.

You can't make a living out of it so if anyone asks you what you do you end up telling them what crummy job it is you're currently holding down to pay the bills. The fact that you are, and know you are, only about the 1,059,231,577th best gas meter reader in the world and one of the best writers in your field just doesn't come into it.

Current literary theory doesn't help one little bit as it keeps telling you - and anyone else who'll care to listen - that there is no objective standard of excellence. No other trade or discipline has to put up with this shit; imagine if you pulled out that piece of woodwork you did in year 10 and used it to demonstrate your skills as a cabinetmaker or carpenter. Yet 'poets' do it regularly and critics bark their praises. Then Joe Punter, stumbling into pub and not realising it's writers' night gets the impression, after some minutes of this toss, that poetry is shite and goes back to whatever dodgy cover band he was dancing to.


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