I recently had an email asking me to take part in a survey about poetry. This was one of the first questions:

Q: Have you ever written a poem? A: 1. No; 2. Yes as a class exercise; 3. Yes, for personal reasons
I’m a bit bemused by the way the reasons for writing poems are divided between ‘class exercises’ and ‘personal reasons’.

I’ve written poems for whole host of reasons: I’ve written for love, out of boredom and malice, to impress, to annoy, to amuse, to encourage, to teach, to try and win a competition, to improve my writing, as a reaction to another piece of writing… I think I’ve even written for money. None of those is my main reason for writing, but they are all perfectly valid, and I’m sure there are far more that I haven’t listed.

I don’t feel happy lumping all those together as ‘personal reasons’. The expression just feels so hearts-and-flowersy, as if the poems were all adolescent angst and should never have been allowed out of my personal journal.

I’d have expected different from a respected literary magazine. Why couldn’t the options have been ‘as a class exercise’ / ‘for other reasons’ ?

Or perhaps, ‘under protest’ / ‘willingly’.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

4 thoughts on “motivation”

  1. From what I remember most people have wrote poems “under protest”. There’s always that English teacher who promises it will “widen our minds” to write something more likely to appear inside a Hallmark card.

    It always makes me wonder why people who never admit to writing poetry would be doing a survey on poetry in the first place.


    1. I suspect some poets (and some other writers) would say they wrote ‘under protest’.
      Perhaps I should have suggested: ‘because you were told to’ v. ‘without external pressure’.

      The whole point of the survey was to incude people who don’t write poetry. The people who answered were supposedly either writers or interested in writing in some way. I don’t exactly write fiction, but was asked to answer the fiction survey when it came round, too. I reckon it’s more likely to produce interesting results that way.


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