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Monday, July 11, 2011

If we were paid to write poems, how would they change?

I wrote a poem during the past week. After I had written a few drafts of it, I sent it to a couple of friends who I had mentioned it to. I can't show you the poem because I intend to publish it - and some editors count exposure on Hi Spirits as 'publishing', and they want unpublished works. But I can share the last line at least because it is pertinent to the conversation which follows:

If our work paid it would be
differently made.

Now, the following reply was to a revised version of the poem I had shared a day before:

Hi Andrew


Thanks for the poem. I like the revised version very much - the last few lines of the original just didn't seem quite right sitting on the end of the poem. Really love the way you write - thanks for sending it through. It is currently up on my wall at work.


PS - I wonder how 'differently made' your poems would be if you were paid to write them....??

To this I replied:

Yes, me too. I think they would be like ad copy - aware of the client and only secondly aimed at the result As it is, it is like 'gift commerce' - freely given with simply an eye (ear) for sharing. What the poet is sharing varies with every poem and every poet: Pam Ayres has a different set of chops than Charles Bukovski, John Tranter different than Les Murray, Seamus Heaney to Ron Silliman. When I was richer than I am today, money paid for the publication of my poems went straight into the purchase of new poetry books, thereby assisting the R & D of further works. A couple of days ago I sold two books at a workshop, rang my wife and told her to stop cooking, and bought fish'n'chips for tea! Now that's putting poetry earnings to good use

Cheers -


A short while later this reply popped into my email box:

Hmmm - I have always struggled with the image of you dancing to someone else's tune as an advertising person. You always seem so much your own person. But yes, much like people painting on commission, the work of art tends to be tailored to the person paying the commission so of course you are right. But then, is writing poetry that you hope to have published also influenced by what you think publishers might want or the public might buy.....? All very interesting.

Either way, I like the sound of using the money from your poetry books to buy other poetry books or fish'n'chips - both very good investments I say! Hope you enjoyed and Jeanette enjoyed them. And I still like your poem!



MY reply -

Thanks for yr reply - I am so much my own person, I was often in conflict in advertising. Often clients hire you to be original, but then complain your ideas aren't like their opposition's advertising: they often wanted 'me too' advertising which is never creative. Money was always polluting our ideas - the Big Idea was often too expensive to produce, although often small budgets made the creative team more creative.

When I write poems, I write 'em for myself first and foremost. I tap my feet to my own beat, I dream as free as a kite without strings in friendly breezes. My writing habits click into gear and I write within a tradition even when I'm trying to buck it. I never think of editors or publishing houses until after I have shaped something I am proud of - then I want to share it. (Occasionally I am asked to write for an occasion and then I write verse, often funny, but not momentous!)

And I'm glad you still like the poem


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