Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why Write Poetry?

‘Why write poetry?’ I’m sometimes asked. The obvious answer is ‘because I want to.’ There are many other logical and complex responses. I advance one theory. During childhood my existence consisted of two worlds. One was Little River, Banks Peninsula, my birthplace and heartland. That grounded me in New Zealand.

I have always had a strong sense of belonging here. I grew up in a place that supplied the minerals and vitamins to nourish my body. Books, equally real, were my other source of nutrition – from around the world, disembodied knowledge, information not tied to actual experience, narrative and stories and timeless fantasies, expressed through the English language.

It has been suggested that the distinction that I should make is between "what is" and "what should be" but I don't think this is accurate, they were and are parallel worlds. While a chameleon curiosity underlies both interests, basically they remained disconnected throughout my childhood and indeed through much of my early adult life. My practical self instinctively knew the wish-fulfilment of the other self would never come into being because that self tended to be haphazard at action. So the practical self concentrated upon the things that needed to be done, kindling cut, essays marked, meetings chaired, speeches written.

It was in and by poetry that I attempted and still do to bridge the gap. I think, indeed I am confident, that the two strands have merged as I have grown older. That bridge is now an essential part of my mental landscape, so much there that it seems natural as if has always been available for use.

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