Often, we poets ask ourselves why we write. W H Auden had a theory (well, he had a few): “In so far as poetry, or any of the arts, can be said to have an ulterior purpose, it is, by telling the truth, to disenchant and disintoxicate,” he said.
That’s certainly one reason to write – to tell a painful truth.
When I was reading a lot of Raymond Carver, I wrote this little poem, which suggests that poetry can be a consolation prize of sorts. Failed love affair? Write about it. That sort of thing. But – uniquely – poetry can also be the thing that one is reaching for, albeit unknowingly. It can be the prize itself. Can it not? (Note: no love affairs ended during the writing of this poem; in fact, it was written from the perspective of one who is currently happily married.)
Poems don’t matter that much
Poems don’t matter
that much. Language
hooks itself, a fish, to a stray line
hooked on a rock, accidentally.
Look. Gutted because that line
was there in the first place,
finished, messy, after-the-fact.
Poems. They come
only after you’ve tried for something.