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Friday, November 10, 2017

Success as a Poet?

What is it? asks Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides.  He had interesting things to say, which, if this subject interests you, you would surely enjoy reading – things about money, fame, artistic achievement, immortality....  He invited other poets to share their views. The following is my own response:


I started as a very young child. I lived in a household – and extended family – which valued poetry, and my Dad used to read it aloud. I thought it was the most beautiful thing a human being could make and wanted to spend my life at it. I am now 78, and I have, and do.
In the days of print media only, I even earned a little money from it, maybe $20 or so when accepted by literary journals, which happened fairly often for a few years, plus getting something from sales of my books – of course, not enough to live on, but it seems I did a bit better than most poets do nowadays.
Fame – well I had a small amount of fame within Australia for a few years, both as published poet and performance poet, but poetic fame is limited in any case. The man and woman in the street have never heard of me – and they probably also have not heard of poets far more famous than I ever was.
I ran away from the poetry ‘scene’ eventually, rather disenchanted. I found most poets to be beautiful people, helpful to each other – but for some few there was nasty politicking going on, and it tainted things. I kept on writing of course, just not participating.
Why ‘of course’? Because, like you Robert, I have to. I have always had to. And it has always been and will always be a very high priority in my life.
And now – my goodness, for the past 20-odd years in fact – I have embraced the internet, where I find many absolutely brilliant and wonderful and largely unsung poets. I have a blog. I follow prompts from time to time, as well as still getting flashes of fresh inspiration. As I have always done, I experiment with forms, styles, voices, and I strive to make my art as well as I can. For it is indeed my art form, beyond self-expression (though it’s that too) – a making, a putting something new into the world that wasn’t there before.
And all this begs the question of value judgments. It’s what I do. Some people will like it and respond; others won’t. Sometimes I will do it well enough to please myself; often not, no matter how I strive, how I tweak. I always find it worth the endeavour. It’s how I chose to live my life, and so far no regrets.
When I was a little kid, I wanted to spend my life making poems. I could think of nothing better. How lucky am I? I fulfilled this dream and continue to do so. Thanks to the internet, I even get read; in fact my blog has a far wider audience than I received when published in prestigious paper journals. I feel greatly blessed.
Is not ‘success’ achieving one’s dreams?

I didn't say to Robert, but will add here:

Nine years ago, someone who wanted to destabilise me asserted that I was not a poet, suggesting that I was only kidding myself. (Leaving aside Marge Piercy's 'The real writer is one / who really writes' which is the definitive and best answer) –

He asked,

'Do you write poems every day?'

'Do you spend time making them as good as you can?'
'Do other people read them?'

'Do people say they like them or that they are moved by them?'
'Do poets you admire tell you they think highly of them?'
'Do they get published (not just self-published)?'

He apparently did not know me very well, as he seemed to expect that I would have to answer no to these questions. But I answered yes, and he kept having to ask new questions to try and get the 'no' he wanted. Which did not come. 


Instead of a destabilisation it was a validation. I had not questioned that I was a poet – I have known that about myself from a very early age – but it was thrilling to have it affirmed via this check-list.

(I must confess that at present I am not making poems every day – just nearly every day.)