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Saturday, February 05, 2005

Poetry & Exploration - Bill Manhire

A friend of mine has just brought me back a copy of the New Zealand Listener, January 8 - 14 2005. It is a great issue, with poems in it by Bob Orr, and articles on writing by Owen Marshall, Bill Manhire and Margaret Mahy. They are all entitled 'How To Write', and if you have ever attempted such an article you will know how difficult such a feat is. (Especially in one page ...)

Bill Manhire's article starts off with a wonderful anecdote, which I shall share with you now ...

There's a story about the great Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. Somewhere in the far north of Russia, towards the end of World War I, he found himself gazing across a desolate expanse of snow and was sufficiently moved by the sight to declaim some lines of poetry to a Russian army officer.
"Do you know who wrote those words?" he asked.
"No," said the officer.
"Well, Shackleton wrote them."
"That explorer-man?" said the officer. "I never knew he was a poet."
"Then why the devil," said Shackleton, "do you think he became an explorer?"

Late on in the same article, Bill Manhire quotes Canadian poet, George Bowering: "If you write about what you know, you will keep on writing the same thing, and you will never know any more than you do now."

Ain't that right! So, go out there, into the vast expanses of your own mind, and explore. Even walk out your front door if you have to! (Exercise is good for poets, I hear ...)

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