Where have all the rebels gone?


Helen Calcutt

National Poetry Day is a fine example of one long-standing event that celebrates and nurtures a range of poetic voices from all over the world. The newly launched Verve Poetry Festival too, is specifically designed to cater for a wealth of talented voices desperately needing a welcome platform from which to share their work. But the message we receive as writers, day-in-day out is often the same – ‘if you write like this, you will achieve success.’ The new now in poetry is always very similar to what we just had, and this is both tedious and depressing. I put this idea to the panel, and it was Fergus who made the powerful point that, as a writer, you have to be yourself.

It’s the age old argument, but the roots of the issue have been squashed almost to the point of elimination. We’re so hell-bent on driving home some ‘idea’ of who we are, probably in order to fit in with the idealistic ‘I’ of whatever fits, that we’ve left the genuine element behind. The shamanistic view is that in order to know a person, you have to retreat from them as deeply as you can. In order to understand the ‘self’ too, you have to distance yourself from it: distil it in some way and then, over time, stand back to observe how it behaves. The true act of writing poetry is most definitely a way of touching the deeper corners of the spirit, separate enough from the self to both observe and absorb. Though crucially (another Fergus point) this takes a very, very long time.”

You can read the full op-ed piece here, courtesy of The Birmingham Review: http://birminghamreview.net/opinion-where-have-all-the-rebels-gone/