Why Don’t I Write More About Poetry?

Why don’t I write more about poetry?

It’s a fair question.

It’s right up there in the blog description, it’s something I spent a year of my life studying, and it’s something that takes up a good amount of my free time.

So why don’t I write about it?

Firstly, poetry is intensely personal.

I don’t mean this in the “poetry is all subjective” sense. Recently, I find that I don’t agree that poetry is purely subjective, unless one is to take the most reductionist approach possible.

I simply mean that talking about poetry to a large anonymous audience is intimidating.

Poetry is often intense and involving in a way that prose rarely is, at least not consistently. This isn’t due to a necessary or inherent part of the writing of poetry — there’s a lot of crap poetry and a lot of moving, intense prose. It’s due to the attention we can bring to bear on poetry as a reader, it’s bound up in the cultural rituals of how we approach poetry from the other side.

Because of this, to talk about a poem that I loved or hated to a large, vague audience is (a) embarrassing, and (b) incomprehensible to a large section of the audience. Again, this is not to say that the poem itself is therefore subjective, only that emotional responses to poetry are subjective — which brings me neatly to my second point.

(The majority of contemporary) Intellectual approaches to and dissections of poetry (in the media) are dull.

There seems to be a split between the simplistic and the irritatingly pretentious, with precious little middle ground for sober analysis. Everyone seems to want to be either Larkin or Lacan. The discussion and dissection of the construction and intended effects of poetry has been relegated to the classroom — if I even think about using the phrase “the poet’s use of metaphor”, I feel as though I am a naive A-level student rather than a proper commentator.

There are exceptions. I love PN Review for its insightful and usually very open-minded commentary on poetry — but the people writing for PN Review are at the top of their game. I could not rival them for analysis, and so I will not try.

Finally, the poetry world in Britain at the moment, at least the type that appears in respectable journals and wins the poet recognition and a sort-of career, is incredibly factional, cliquish, and politically-motivated.

My blog might not reach many people, but the mere thought of my latest internal rant about poet X or poet Y reaching the blog…and Twitter…and poet X or Y…and the editor of a prestigious journal, however unlikely, gives me chills. It could quite easily stop any chance of my getting the respect needed to become a published poet before my efforts really began.

So, that’s why.

I do hope to write a little more about it, but if I get the time and inclination, I’d rather write it than about it, anyway.

This post about my own blog and poetry has been explicitly designed to counteract the effects of my last accidentally popular post. I wish to return to my normal 20 views a day now, please.


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3 thoughts on “Why Don’t I Write More About Poetry?

  1. lucysixsmith says:

    Hurrah! I am the first to like this post. Hello, small purple frowny-faced emoticon.

    I also disagree entirely with the statement “Intellectual approaches to and dissections of poetry are dull.” Explaining why I disagree might require a whole blog post. If I can think of a way of putting it briefly I shall comment again.

  2. Hi Lucy!

    That statement was poorly-phrased, sorry. There were a few issues with this blog post… perhaps I ought to focus more on content production.

    I have rephrased it to read “(The majority of contemporary) Intellectual approaches to and dissections of poetry (in the media) are dull.”, because even I did not agree with the statement as it read originally. I don’t know if you’d agree more with that statement, but I certainly do.

    Thanks for commenting, that purple frowny emoticon is a rogue agent and will be dealt with severely.

  3. lucysixsmith says:


    I probably haven’t actually read enough contemporary criticism in the media to be able to comment in fairness, but your rephrased comment seems plausible. Certainly a lot of the criticism I HAVE read has been enORmously dull.

    Your rephrasing, though, still allows a possibility that some approaches to poetry aren’t intellectual. — I think that’s a suggestion I would query.

    In other news, I’m grateful to this blog post for causing me to conclude that I do still care about poetry after all, something which has recently seemed questionable.

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