Someone- well, most people once they find out I write poetry (I don’t run about telling everyone, because it makes me feel salacious)- once asked me what kind of poetry I write. I genuinely had no idea how to answer. Mainly because, if pressed, I had no idea how to answer. I had never really thought about it. Yes, gasp that gasp in horror but it’s true.
When submitting poetry to literary journals, 90% of the time they want a professional submission. Like, say, for example…
My name is Blah Blah, I am blah-age/have lived/am from BLAH. I have previously had poems published in Blah Magazine, BLAHBLAH!, and Blahdeblah: issue 5 etc…
I have included four poems attached below and I would very much appreciate your time in considering my work.
All poems included are as of yet unpublished…”
Well, you get the general jist.
You can see a slice of it on my home page. It wasn’t until recently when I read a magazine I really thought was interesting in their approach that I realised they wanted their writers to submit and pitch their writing to them- I began sweating immediately and though I am clearly (ever-so-slightly) under thirty and have testicles, I believe I may have experienced a hot flush. And by ‘pitch’ I mean really try and sell it to them- that I came up against that question yet again.
“What kind of poetry do you write?”
I had no idea. I’d never successfully descibed the poetry I write before. It took me two strong coffees and twice as many cigarettes to get my way through that one and even then, what I wrote was only passable. I think I recall my partner asking me to give him an answer to this question once and to my detriment, I think I gave him the better, far more eloquent version. However, for the sake of some kind of explaination to the weird poetic landscape you might find here, I have included beneath what I said to that magazine- and yes, they did want a very casual response, this is not at all how I would respond to a journal whose tone was more generally formal. Also, keep in mind, some of the poems featured here are from years ago- look at the dates below them. I did actually improve! Though I do have some more which are far better that will not be seen here until they are published, for reasons that will be explained.
“…what I attempt to do with my poetry is to try to take real experiences and feelings and incorporate the confessional parts of them into a kind of dream state through imagery- to build a world that each poem inhabits, but taken together, form a recognisable world to the poems before them.
Everyone has their own way of seeing the world, just as every writer has their own way of writing about it. I attempt, as much as I can, to try to steer clear of bland, transparent writing or imagery. I enjoy reading poems, as most people do, that incorporate a world into the length of the poem. A poem you can get lost in is the only kind of poem that matters. Imagery is the foundation stone of poetry, without it, the reader is unabsorbed and the poem fails. In a way, I think a good poem should be a weapon- it should hit you.
I find it difficult to describe my own work because to me it makes sense, or it’s how I make sense of my world- somewhere bordering on fantasy, a little darkness along the edges and maybe a little more unconventional than most poets my age. It’s half-confessional, dressed up in fantasy, with a tint of darkness…”
I’m not certain for sure yet (because I haven’t gotten the death knell of a response so far), but personally I don’t think I did what my country men would refer to as ‘a decent job’ of it. I’ve never had to write about it before. No one asks you to describe your work when you submit poems for publication, the work ought to speak for itself. Although, the reason I submitted was precisely because I loved the idea that you ought to talk about it, you should try and pitch it because if you can’t classify it and make it sound decent, how do you know as a writer exactly what you’re trying to do with it?
I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it- because I’d never had to do it before- but I did enjoy it. If I could rewrite that now, I would agree with most of it but I wish I’d spoken more about how imagery is the key thing for me. A poem should feel, on reading it, like a film reel turning in your mind’s eye, you should not only read but see it. It should hit you, it should go off like a verbal and visual bomb and what’s killing me about this blog post is that the two poems I most feel do this have not yet been published and I cannot publish them here. To do so would mean no other publication- like a literary journal or magazine- would publish them. To publish something even on your own blog means it has technically been published and so will not be accepted for publication elsewhere. Not always the case but if you do it and you submit to say, The New Yorker (and believe me, even smaller, very professional journals you might not have heard of), well you better hope your blog is untraceable because that poem is not getting in. You’ve already published it and that counts.
Which is somewhat annoying as I feel those two poems I mentioned llustrate quite well what I’m trying to talk about. At least I think they do, I mean maybe if at some point I’m delighted that they do get published then you can be the judge of that- poetry’s all subjective. But that’s neither here nor there, so now I’m rambling. I do that (clearly).
For me- and it’s only because it’s how I write, obviously different writers feel differently and have differing techniques- imagery is the most important thing. It is what personally grips me every time. Poetry should be the utmost use of language, the highest use of the art using the least amount of words possible. Without impact, without imagery that strikes and assaults you, the poet is nothing more than a ‘poet’ and has failed.
I’m not outside of that, I fail on a daily basis most of the time but then, that’s what makes it so much fun. It’s when you feel like you haven’t failed and you realise you’ve actually created something sort of worthwhile that makes you appreciate the task it is to make it in the first place.
Even if no-one ever sees it… But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep doing it, if that’s what you feel compelled to do.
So until next time, when likely I will post some random cat videos or something. Maybe even a Vlog post (Sweet Jesus!). Slán!