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Pete Marshall
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From the mouths of babes


1/.

in the High Court the defendant argued that no plagiarism had taken place indeed stated loudly that he had not stolen any of the poems, he had found them:

Poetry is three mismatched shoes at the entrance of a dark alley;
is a sofa full of blind singers who have put aside their canes,
it is speech in which the words come in an order which could not
be changed without ruining the verity and power of the whole;

poetry's a zoo in which you keep demons and angels, deep gossip,
it is a dame with a huge pedigree, philosophy's sister ( the one who
wears the make-up). It is a kind of leaving notes for someone else
to find, and a willingness for them to fall into the wrong hands.

Poetry is the rapture of rhythmical language, it is what makes the
invisible appear, it is a way of talking about things that frighten you;
poetry is a machine for remembering itself, it is a way of communi-
cating a vast array of thoughts and feelings, it is a trick, and a

poem is an attempt to find the music in the words describing an
intuition, a poem is a smuggling of something back from the otherworld,
a prime bit of shoplifting, a ghost seeking substantiality. A poem
has to be the most powerful thing one can say in the shortest space

possible.


2/.

informed their worships that if a crime had indeed been committed he eagerly awaited the court's sentence as it would finally reveal to him poetry's true value:

As with any other product there is no innate justice in the marketing
and consumption of poetry. Just as the richest people are the most prone
to regard capitalism as even-handed competition, so the most successful
poets are the likeliest to assume the business is a pure meritocracy;

a poetry bestseller is any book that sells four or five copies in any store,
poets are the Big Issue sellers of the literary world, some are silent
and desperate, others are mad and messianic, you know you ought to
buy their wares but suspect you wont enjoy them.....

Poets and money are seen in each other's company only rarely, they
can do without money and that's a good thing, they have more aesthetic
freedom precisely because nobody cares how or what they write;
poems are chits that get you off work. To devote a life

to poetry looks to most people like a decision to ignore the benefits of modern
living, it looks a lot like sulking. The impulse to write poetry is the
enemy because it's trying to keep you poor. The hope of permanent fame
may be the second silliest motive for a career in poetry, the first is, of course,

the hope for untold riches.


3/.

harangued in the stocks the poet publicly apologised to the poets from whom the poetry had been pilfered:

A special gift isn't bestowed on us by God Almighty but by another god
called Hard Work. I was my own creator. All people talk to themselves,
some are overheard and they are the poets. To be a published poet is not
a sane person's aspiration, any fool can write poetry but it takes

a genius to get it published; if you are writing poetry only to get published
you belong in some other kind of writing. And, what's more, if
a so-called artistic work is done without the artist committing his whole
personality the effect is dubious; poetry should be old as time, poets used

to be mad or bad now they are mostly just sad. There are jealousies rolling
about - not much chinking of money - but plenty of grinding of teeth. Indeed,
the one thing that can get a poet irritated and upset is the thought of another
poet's poems. Heavyweight boxing is a tame gentle spectacle compared with

the contests of literary men, it is surprising how much grousing and grieving
goes on in the name of poetry. It is tribal. The sense of ferrets fighting for
mastery of the sceptic tank is depressing, the tension sibling, Oedipal. There
is nothing like a punch in the mouth to remind you that your poem wasn't as

clever as you thought.



NB: This poem was found hiding in the pages of The Bloodaxe Book Of Poetry Quotations edited by Dennis O'Driscoll.


Copyright © Pete Marshall, 2009