The usual comment about the innately destructive comparison culture perpetuated by society through the media, especially social media- I want, in this instance, however, to bring this conversation to a personal level, about my experiences so far as a writer, a poet (although I gag supremely at this label where it applies to me, so I rarely use it).
No matter how much you fundamentally know that, in all areas of life, there are horrendously counter-intuitive, counter-productive narratives about your value as a human being, the countless ways in which this is qualified and, in essence, how bullshit all these ideas are, they do still get inside you and alter your perception of your own actions and yourself.
The, seemingly, increasing number of contemporary poets who are also positioning themselves as performers and spoken word artists drives up a palpable conflict within me. I am not, in any conceivable incarnation, prolific on the spoken-word scene; in fact, at this point, I am entirely invisible. This is not because I don’t love hearing poetry, but rather, it is the identity, rather image-centric, around spoken word that makes me inherently uncomfortable, in an emotional, physical way. The increasing prevalence of strategising your career as a writer, your love of and activeness in poetry into something performative, and the seeming demand to do so, makes me feel a little disheartened. There are numerous ways to approach things, and I understand diversifying to reach people in various manners, but I don’t connect with the formulaic presentation of modern poetry, where it pertains to the immediate and reactionary over consideration and content-integrity i.e. whether it stands up and conveys the same message on the page as it does in performance.
I am much more a speaker over stage-performer- reading can be done emotively, expressively, and effectively, without the theatrics and, sometimes, affectations characteristic of spoken word. Irrespective of content, they make everything sound the same, and I feel this compromises the intended message(s). I feel subtlety and nuance aren’t valued in this sphere.
I sometimes question whether I am doing enough, whether I am enough as a writer, a poet, a person. But, when I do things in my own time, paying attention to what and when something is right for me, I receive results and rewards that make me incredibly happy, and serve and nurture me on a foundational level. It is all too easy to be knocked off course, but you have to have faith in your own process, even if, sometimes, you wish it wasn’t so arduous. I have also discovered that there is a lot of discourteousness, and cliqueyness, in the writing/poetry world- people are busy fulfilling their own egos and ambitions to a point where they treat others indecently, inconsiderately, and seem to associate only with those who will, in some way, raise their profile and aid their career, but that is a discussion for another time, maybe. Ambition and passion manifest in many forms- I think it’s important and crucial to recognise subtlety and not unfairly and disproportionately praise overtness, in aid of embracing diversity, of personality and voice, as well as in other areas. I don’t want my presence/posts to become preachy, I wouldn’t allow that: I do think sharing these things helps people, however many, including myself. Through experience, I’ve also found that, if I wait to be asked about something, then I’ll hardly ever have the opportunity to talk about anything. So here I am, creating the opportunity for myself- hopefully, it helps someone too.