It’s ok to not be ok

That’s what the Samaritans say and you often find this mantra in places of extremity like bridges or rail-tracks. I recall having a blazing row with a university friend of mine from Madeira about how it was more seemly to hide your feelings – ala the stiff upper lip of the butler in Remains of the Day – but he maintained that we should pour out our emotions with wild abandon. Now, nearly fifteen years on, I agree with him.

To be honest, I don’t know what the done thing is. I tend to waver between apathy and lachrimae. But when it comes to writing poetry it seems that it’s not ok to say what you feel. In my most recent publications I’ve been criticised for laying myself bare and making myself too vulnerable via self-deprecation. There’s a thin line between not being ok and being self-pitying, it seems.

I think the problem is inherent in the marketing of poetry. There are so many people clamouring for attention in such a small arena. You have to play the big-shot at all times – you have to give out the impression that you’re a grand fromage when you aren’t. Modern poetry – that is to say the stuff that is successful now and wins all the (yawn) prizes – doesn’t dare for a second doubt itself. I find that a great shame. Poetry for me is the dramatisation of aporias or deep doubts within ourselves. But in order to sell poetry (and thus yourself) you have to be bumptious – these two drives are inherently incompatible. When did the sales-people take over poetry?

It’s ok to not be ok – but don’t for a moment get ideas above your station and think you can write poetry that matters from it – that will never sell!

3 thoughts on “It’s ok to not be ok

  1. Thanks for baring your soul and thoughts – it’s always refreshing to hear a bit of authentic personhood!
    Just wanted to say that Jonathan Davidson gave your writing a lovely commendation on a broadcast on Sunday evening. He was doing a session as part of a current project organised by Jo Bell – a poem-prompt-a-day during this lockdown. He spoke with great tenderness about the subtlety of your poetry within which lies much to those willing to give it the time it deserves……, amen to that 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Roger,

    Many thanks for reading the blog and taking the time to post something so positive – Jonathan has been incredibly supportive of my work and I’m very touched by his efforts to try and drum up a little bit of interest in it.

    All best,

    Richie

    Like

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