'Writing poetry is not a crime'
Writing poetry is not a crime. Writing poetry is a credit. It is the way to reach people and to get readers. It is also a matter of earning money, obtaining recognition or applying for scholarships or jobs. Publication is also a process. After publishing a book, a poet thinks about the next one. It is also an occasion to forget poems that one has already written. It creates the basis for a new beginning.
However, careless publication cannot be expected. The publication of bad poems should not be appreciated. But only a true poet as well as the true reader in him decides whether poetry is good or not. Some poets suffer from writer's block, but are still avid to be published. That is why they continue to publish, and repeat. It is simply a poetic crime. Sometimes the senseless media insists on big names and the poets supply them old wines in new bottles. Illiterate literary editors are happy for that. They publish them. They have a permanent list of poets. They decide in advance which poet should be number one in their literary supplement and who will be last, and they even decide in advance who will not be published by any standard.
This is the stupidity that prevails in the head of literary editors in different countries. That creates a basis for some poets to keep repeating. But, great poets always avoid repeating. So called slam poets have minimum ways to avoid repeating.
A poet has no way of being self critical. He is aware enough while writing and printing. A poet's thinking is sovereign in the extreme. When he allows his poems to be printed, that's it. He has no way of back-turning. To be self-critical is simply a weakness in a poet. It is not expected. It is not appreciated.
Before publishing a poem, a poet thinks about it a thousand times, whether it is printable or not. But, after printing, he has no way. In that case literary editors are also playing the role as gatekeepers, if they are not too illiterate. A poet should not have time to be self critical. Rather, he can invest that time in reading or writing something new.
It is not true that you only gain recognition when you are dead. It depends on the socio-political condition of any given country. It depends on the state of freedom of thought and freedom of expression in a country. Sometimes recognition invites controversies.
Who cares about recognition? The Nobel Prize is the number one recognising instrument, but not free from controversies. It fails to recognize many legendary master poets in the world. So what? A great poet does not care about recognition but readership. Ultimate recognition exists in readership. It is not a matter of whether the poet is dead or alive. Every poet expects such recognition in their lifetime. But a poet who does not know his or her limitations, may be lost someday.
I prefer smaller publishers. I never forget that publishers are businessmen. First and foremost, they need to survive, then to make a profit. They are not charities. That is why they go for popular writers; they are in search of bestsellers. Nothing is wrong with this. They are businessmen, first and last. That is why a poet should prefer smaller publishing houses. There they will be much more careful for a book, even by a minor poet. A poet will easily have harmonious correspondence with that publisher. Bigger publishing houses, on the other hand, will simply offer corporate deals to a poet. That is irritating to a poet.
The best way to work is forgetting your shortcomings, and just continue reading and writing. Read bad poems and good poems. By reading bad poems you will build your confidence, seeing that many a people are writing rubbish in the name of poetry. That will give you a feeling that you should never write such rubbish. Reading good poems you will get a feeling of what poetry should be. You will unconsciously get into a mindset that will help you to write better. This determination will help you overcome your shortcomings. Never be dictated to by any critic. Being clear and unclear is not the concern of poetry. It matters only whether the "poems" are poems or not. A poet must think before letting them be printed. After printing, he should not have to do anything. Remember most critics are failed poets. T.S. Eliot called them slaves under the original works of others.
When you are happy with your poems, it is simply suicidal for you as a poet. When you can make your readers happy, it is your success. It is not so easy.
After a long effort, a poet can reach the mind of thousands of readers. Making his readers happy, a poet can have prospects. These include getting media attention, invitations for readings, prospects for getting scholarships and prizes, generous offers from publishers. True poets do not care about popularity.
This does not mean that a true poet will not be popular. If you are not a criminal, it is not wrong for you as a poet to appear in the media. The core purpose of writing is to reach other people, to reach their minds. If a poet avoids appearing in media, he will miss the chances to promote his poetry.
Whether your poetry is good or bad is a secondary question. The readers will judge, in the long run. In the short run, a poet should try to appear in media with honesty. Uphold your spiritual integrity as a poet. Rich people are able to buy their way to name and fame. Many people are on such a practice in the name of charity, human rights and democracy. All these things are a fashion to them. Poetry can be a fashion in the same way.
Poetry is a question of the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. Such a feeling does not always require the need of questioning. It is simply a matter of spontaneity. If it requires questioning anything particular in a poem before or while writing, it is all right. I consider my poems to be my personal politics. I find poets are a vulnerable political species in society. Society is mostly blind when it comes to knowing a poet. In other cases, people think that any individual who has nothing else to do writes poems. All this makes a poet an absent existence. Poets are not considered as any particular group for taking their poetic voice to policy making. What can a poet do? The only weapon a poet has is the power of writing. However, it requires the attainment of craftsmanship in writing.
This is important. Orientation, commitment, continuation, sensitivity, voracious reading, a clear idea about what a poet writes and to be true to oneself. That is all. Poetry is autodidactic matter. A poet must know it.r
Anisur Rahman shares his time between Bangladesh and Sweden. He conducts literary writing programmes in Scandinavian cities and Dhaka. He is now working on his collection of essays in Bengali 'Lekhoker Daan Haat, Baam Haat' (The lines between dark and light)