I’m not sure it's possible for me to talk about why I write poetry without sounding impossibly selfregarding.
But I think I need to say why for myself, as much as anything. Poetry is the end of loneliness,
is my gut feeling. Or, its the printed word’s closest shot at doing it. I’ve always read poetry. It started at
school with two fantastic A-level teachers. And I liked being seen to read poetry— I felt special and
clever and different. The first grown up poem I loved was Ozymandius and when it’s meaning was
unlocked for me as ‘human vanity’ I had a peak moment— wow, poetry can say big stuff through
powerful images, beautiful words.
I was a strange boy. I wanted to be a girl most of the time. And home and school were always weird. But
I had poetry. I could scream with Sylvia Plath, feel mordant with Philip Larkin, Catholic with Elizabeth
I read English at Liverpool University in the early 90’s. I’d grown up in middle class south Manchester
and so my head exploded on Merseyside. And it didn’t stop exploding until my mid 30’s: in London (and
then Berkshire). My concentration span wasn’t great. I can still only read a novel on holiday but in
normal life the length of most poems suits me: I stand a chance of getting to the end.
Since I’ve started writing again I’ve broadened my reading, reading a lot of American and contemporary
British poetry, and I’m dazzled and excited by the multiplicity of it. When I’m feeling serious minded I
say I like Ashbery and Auden and Wallace Stevens most (which is true). But it changes. I was moved to
tears at the Ledbury Poetry Festival my Melissa Houghton-Lee. And laughed a lot at Luke Kennard’s
hilarious and very charming reading. This week I’ve read Tara Bergin and Tony Hoagland and loved
So, that’s it really. The nicest thing about writing again after a twenty year break is that words are
exciting again. I was bored by them in early adulthood. Trying to appear old before my time, no doubt.
And riddled with those insecurities I was only really interested in poetry for myself. Steady as he goes,
but its good to be writing again, and getting my voice out there. It's probably too trashy to write but
maybe I can do for poetry what poetry has done for me. Make some kind of contribution that is (who
said this?) strong enough to help.