This Author is Not Yet Dead

Last night was Poetry Society Stanza night, an opportunity to get some feedback on poems in progress. This can be dispiriting as when you realise that your carefully crafted allusions mean nothing to anyone and that you need to go back to the drawing board or intriguing as when people see things in your poems that you never knew were there. That is the beauty of a poem. You create it but once released into the public domain it takes on a life of its own. I once heard Dennis O’ Driscoll comment that, essentially, the poems write themselves. This is true up to a point but if we as authors are to die, in the post-structuralist sense, we only do so after a lot of pain and frustration and after, on occasion, getting up at three in the morning to jot down that missing line, that ending, before it disappears. Whilst great art, and even a lot of mediocre art outlives its creator, without the creative impulse of living human beings nothing would be created.  Texts are material and grounded in lived experiences, not least the most elemental ones of sex, disease and death. They do not exist in an airy realm of meta-text and signifiers. People wrote them and people read them and relate them to their lived experience, their materiality. It is in materiality and not in meta-text that the author dies. And writes. Whatever we achieve, or are considered by peers to have achieved (not the same thing) we submit more or less willingly to the need to write and wouldn’t have it any other way.

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