I suppose if prose is the light ale of writing, poetry would be the heavy proof gear, which most writers would agree is the creme de la creme profession, and the reason it attracts all sorts of chancers, deadbeats and those looking for the easy option.
And I admit, I was the same, as when i started writing i looked at it logically, thinking there are roughly four genres
And thinking the first three beyond me on a purely word-count basis, first opted to have a dabble at the fourth one, poetry. My reasoning being that, though the intellectual feat of juggling multiple characters and narrative involved in churning out the thousands of words needed to create a novel was beyond my ability, the creation of a hundred or so word poem; even an idiot like me must be capable of that.
Obviously this was in the mind of an untutored man approaching middle age; and to balance out any charge of amateur intent as a writer of poetry; my first ruminations on this topic led me to the decision, that i would rather write one formal sonnet whose quality was on a par with the worst of Shakespeare, than a thousand poems of disposable free-verse.
To this end i began a poem - still unfinished, in the sense i am not happy with it - which represents my very beginning in the dark art of bluffing in print that i am a poet.
Always in the mind, dreams and abstract thought
Just beyond where our conscious grasp can reach
And seldom is a complete meaning caught
When we try to give these glimpsed fragments speech.
If I, awake and able held a dream
In place so long that reason cuts the form
Would then the mind reveal through nightly stream
All of the inner truth with which we're born?
Would daylight's waking hours to us bring
Reality as such when slumbered warm?
Or would dreams be mute without voice to sing
And stay unlocked to keep a constant form?
Such thoughts as these have often been before
And leave our mind to ever search the more
So this is one of my semi-stone poems, its companion piece not yet written (hopefully) will be the final one i ever write; and casting an eye back six and a half years later, the most obvious technical point which betray this piece as the work of a beginner, is its lack of enjambment.
The syntactic sense of each line, ending at the terminal point of it, like a ship or train labouring along in regular and predictable short bursts. But still, this is the truth of my beginning and whatever the aesthetic properties of the piece are, I do take the tiniest crumb of artistic comfort that my desire to write was not occasioned by the negative impulse of jealousy and/or arrogance.
Twice i have come across people who began their foray into the poetic Art after reading, what they considered to be, weak and unaesthetic specimens written by another, in their opinion, less talented, fellow human, and being in some way offended, decided to re-dress the aesthetic balance in favour of Culture; which - rightly or wrongly - strikes me as another form of snobbery and an exclusional artistic rationale.
I have heard this argument twice now, the last time a couple of days ago, when someone told me, of the few poems they have ever written, the first was done so after reading an attempt by someone, which they thought so poor, they decided to write one in reply, to balance up the inferior art with what they considered to be the real gen, from their own mind.
I have always been suspect of this argument, no matter how convincingly it is presented. That the origins of ones Art can legitimately begin in this way.
Though i suppose the theoretical nuts and bolts will allow it in some form; it's just that it always smacks of a desire to write which is first occassioned by the impulse of jealousy. And again, as I write this i become aware that it may not be as cut and dried as my thinking would have it; seeing that there is such a thing as very poor poetry, and the collision of time, chance, and an individual life, the gods may conspire to arrange in such a way that a poet's career can begin in such circumstances. Who knows?
Can there ever be an answer to such a question?
I suppose at the final cut, we are all unique and have a singularly original path into the Art of verbal mimesis, the making of - what most would agree, on the face of it appear to be as - incredibly pointless acoustic objects; which serve no purpose in existential affairs.
Except perhaps as a spiritual stay, a psychic plea for Love and peace, and it is the level of logical, demonstrable faith the individual artist has about their "poetic" or critical blueprint on the whole shaboodle, which will imbue their work with what sense of gravity the reader detects or decides it possesses.
And poetry being the archest Art of the linguistic chancer, where several poems a year can be got away with; indeed bluffed up to being the output of a shamanic magus of the spaciest order, so the heights of self and public delusion are at their greatest within this - to my mind - laughably monickered; "profession."
A profession whose majority of contemporary practitioners have no unifying thread of technical agreement. Indeed there are a plethora of schools and cliques, all claiming bragging rights for possessing a hot line to a linguistic messiah, to speak from the pure poetic source of shade and light, and to be connected to shadows flitting in Plato's cave where the eternal Muse exists as the cosmic vibration detectable to only the most highly trained of instinctual artists bestowed by a divine Bard with the otherworldly gift as rare as hot snow.