George Szirtes - 30 May 2008
Only since Bill raises it - Most poets need to earn money, because there really is not much money in poetry. Universities over the last five years have been hoovering up poets and novelists because students want to do creative writing at both degree and postgraduate level. Though, personally, I dropped English at age 15 and studied art instead, I too have been hoovered up. So there you are, one and all. Is this a good thing, or do you think we should be starving in garrets? But can you find garrets now? Can writing be taught at all? Or what, if anything, can be taught about writing? What would you like to learn, Bill? I mean from a decent poet.
And that could take us to reading. Should poets read? How much? Is there any particular way to approach the great mass of books already in existence? Where do you start? - My first poet-teacher was Martin Bell, whom I never cease quoting when he said: Poetry should not be taught in schools. It should be a secret and subversive pleasure. And while everyone is busy being subversive now so that the only true subversives are the non-subversive, where does that leave pleasure? It is, I suspect, number 1 on my list. And I don't mean easy chewy, sweet, forgettable pleasure.I mean the pleasure of struggle and depth. Where do you find that? Who gives you that sort of pleasure?