Isn’t it a wonderful caricature to imagine ‘the poet’ – a tortured soul, staring out of the window and wondering what the best method might be to shuffle off this mortal coil..
Ok, I exaggerate. But I think there is a reason those stereotypes have remained so strongly. Creative writing, in whatever form, has a kind of cathartic effect, it literally lets it all go, manifesting in characters, settings, sonnets, stage plays…
The poem, however, tends to look more immediately ‘inward’. As Coleridge put it:
‘To make the external internal, the internal external, to make nature thought, and thought nature—this is the mystery of genius in the fine arts.’
I know from personal experience that I feel more drawn towards poetry when I am feeling the more extreme of emotion. That’s not to say it’s any good, and it’s also not to say that I don’t enjoy writing poetry when I’m feeling pretty level with myself. But there is something almost magical about letting it all go and forming it into a piece of art that can be then passed on and taken on, in, over by someone else.
I read someone say somewhere (but I didn’t save it for referencing because I’m an idiot) that all poets were suicidal.
I leave y’all with this thought (as well as a short poem I wrote for the Guardian’s Poster Poems feature while still full of grief for Heaney’s passing) maybe it’s not that all poets are suicidal. Maybe all ‘suicidals’ are poets, for they understand something about life, and death, that the rest of us do not.
‘in medias res’ – for Seamus Heaney
and without you the sky feels closer-
too long too grey
making earth and cloud magnetic.
and gunmetal is the colour of my skin
without you. I am made a wordless
thing that wants to be strength
and slow poesy in tandem.
and yet I am found in your loss
because suddenly these sounds and soft formations
(like sand castles on my lips,
gently patted by your papery fingertips)
bark loud (echo) into literary twilight.
and now I can understand the phrase
because suffice to say, without you here
I can only guess what advice might have fallen
from you, like rain, from clouds, from grey.
and it has me splitting apart my genre-flesh.