What do we want? Validation. When do we want it? Whenever we can get it.
The trouble is, it’s so slippery. I think of Paul Batchelor’s ‘The Seven Joys of Failure’, which I keep on the desktop of my pc – in particular, these verses:
The third joy
is private and hardly to be spoken of;
but joy nonetheless, however gruesome,
at having our self-loathing proven true,
the certainty so many tender doubts defended
The sixth joy
is dangerous: the temptation to believe
that something may yet come of this;
that we have fallen into wakefulness
merely to enact the dream
that the final crash was but a station.
Since Christmas, I’ve published my second pamphlet, been invited to contribute to an anthology, won second prize in a competition (no, not Monopoly), read at the Wordsworth Museum with some sensational poets who have become friends, had a poem sent in for consideration in the Forwards, been featured on a couple of websites and had a poem accepted by my favourite magazine.
This should tell me that I’m doing ok, poetry wise, you’d think – bearing in mind I knew I wasn’t going to be the laureate (and that, you know, I'm too old, too staid, not fashionable enough, not shiny enough , I haven't suffered in particularly interesting ways and all that stuff...... ). There’s always that sneery little interior voice saying, ‘Magazine acceptance? Pah, they don’t know what they’re doing.’ ‘Second pamphlet? Why not a collection?’ And I know I’m not alone in this. I think it may be even worse for younger poets who are still shiny.
The only antidote I know which silences that crabbed and crabby voice is the act of writing. There is a wonderful liberation when all considerations other than the placement of one word with another and the breaking of a line fade away. Like Skegness*, it’s so bracing. So, here’s my personal validation (yours may be different): Since Christmas, I’ve written six poems and have another noodling away in my periphery vision.
*And speaking of Skegness, if you have any poems about place, you might like to add them to the sparky new website Places of Poetry.
Alison Winch's Darling, It's Me (Penned in the Margins); Raymond Antrobus's Perserverance (Penned in the Margins); John-Paul Burns' The Minute and the Train (Poetry Salzburg); and Victoria Glendinning's Edith Sitwell, a Unicorn Among Lions (OUP).