My forward...one would suspect... taken in part from my inscape interview, but probably forward for my book.
There have always been poets. There is something about the human language that lends itself to bursts of short, tight, aesthetically-evocative works of literature. Sometimes these expressions take the form of songs, sometimes prayers, but in whatever form they take, since there has been language there have been poets. A wonderful thing happened and poetry became popular. Then a terrible thing happened and poetry became unpopular. And yet, I think that there are no fewer poets than before.
It’s a funny thing, using that word poet. Most of the people I know who write poetry, even those who have been long-published and professional, shy away from calling themselves a poet. There’s something of a sigma to it, like suddenly you’re this self-absorbed pseudo-intellectual lurching about like Meyerburg from Cold Comfort Farm. It’s easier to admit that you go to Star Trek conventions than let average people know you write poetry—because there’s a lot of bad poetry out there. It’s so “easy” to write poetry that everyone does it and so “difficult” to read that no one does that.
There is no incentive, in the modern world, to write poetry. You don’t get boys doing it (although I have heard boys claim they can pick up girls through poetry); you don’t make money with it; it doesn’t make you popular—even if you’re on top of your game there will probably be only a handful of people who care about what you’re writing and many of them will be interested only because, frankly, they wish they were at the top instead of you. I don’t know this because I’m at the top—I know this because I’ve felt this way about those up there.
So why do I do it? I like words and I like images and I like poetry. I like the neat little bundles that I can tie things all up in and those little bundles are so port able. I can carry a poem around in my head a lot easier than a personal essay or a novel. Sometimes those ideas end up back in essays or short stories, but usually they fit best in the highly concentrated form of a poem. In the end, that’s why I write poetry: it’s a surprisingly efficient way to figure out the world.
And that’s why I figure that despite the cultural currents against writing poetry, I think there are still a good clump of poets, yet. Poetry, like any art, is something that those who make it just instinctively do. It bugs me when I hear people ask famous poets how they write, where they write, what kind of pens they use when the write. It’s never struck me particularly that it’s about the writing instrument, but more of a way of thinking about things in those little packages. You have to read a lot. You have to think a lot. You have to write a lot. It’s just the way in which you encounter the world and you can’t change the way you think, not easily. There are always people who think about the world in tight, wordish ways and there always will be. There will always be