Sunday, March 19, 2006


I am a tortured poet. But not in a good way.

I’m tortured because I can't stop worrying about whether I might not be tortured enough to match up to some folks’ ideas of what a poet should be. I don’t suffer from depression, angst, soul searching, navel gazing, or any of those kind of emotional gewgaws that seem to be so precious to the ‘true’ poet.

Okay, I'm not really worried about it, but does having a cheerful disposition make me an impostor poet? Should I weep rather than laugh and flow rather than craft? See that? It rhymes – I must be a poet!

This is an aspect of poetry that occasionally bothers me – why do so many people feel that ‘true’ poetry is a matter of heart and soul rather than head and intellect? Is a poem that touches on some insightful philosophical question worth any less than one that touches one’s heart? Neither are easy to write, nor so common. But I would much rather read a thoughtful piece that failed to reach insightful, than an emotionally soaked piece that failed to touch any part of my left ventricle.


Ginnyfly said...

Hi Messalina
A poet surely must use heart - soul - intellect and gut reaction to reach the light - the moment of inspiration

Kult said...

Interesting post.
I'll admit to having serious problems, but they hinder more than anything else. I can never write when I'm depressed, so reliance on mood is such a bugger. I remember one of the first crits I got at PFFA (I think it was you), criticised it as 'too dramatic', heh.

I really don't think you have to be tortured to be a poet, the prerequisite should be INTERESTING. It's way overrated anyway, people suffer from depressions if they're accountants, or mothers, of course some poets have problems. It's that whole myth of The Poet - just ignore it. Most of the good poets these days do too.

Messalina said...

Hi ginnyfly,

I guess that, as kult says (more or less!) - all poets are different but my own experience is that the poem itself (or at least the writing of it) is itself the journey to "reach the light". Most of my poems start with a question of some sort - some I resolve for myself whilst writing and some are explored but unresolved. My current signature on PFFA says it all for me:

"Poetry... is not simply about a human experience, it is a human experience."
(Pattiann Rogers: 'The Dream of the Marsh Wren').

Hey kult,

I must confess that I sometimes worry that I am too turned off to the emotional. I do seem to struggle with any piece that is remotely personal (see the 'Trite' posting below!).

Cailleach said...

Or, try reviewing a whole booklet of God inspired "poems." Sheesh!

Nope, I'd agree with the whole idea of making good sound sense with as little cliche, mush and, oh did I mention cliche?

The moment of inspiration is all very well, but it usually takes lots and lots of perspiration to get it resembling anything like sense!

Sorry if this is all garbled...

Anonymous said...

As a sufferer of some of the afflictions you describe, I'm not sure I would have described them as 'emotional gewgaws'. It does rather seem to dismiss or belittle them? I think they add to my poetry as they are part of me. I write some of my 'better', deeper-felt material when I'm feeling dark.

Messalina said...

Hey Joe,

I think anyone who uses emotional problems as some kind of poetic prop (which is what I'm really talking about here) is belittling those who genuinely suffer from emotional problems.

As Cailleach says, there's nothing wrong in writing from a dark emotional place - it just takes a lot of skill to render it well.

Anonymous said...

I surmise that a lot of people use psychological problems as accessories, cosmetics, banners, ornaments or labels. This is what tends to taint them with an affected air. A shame...

I think any poetry takes quite 'a lot of skill to render it well', no matter what the shade.