‘…the way we assert our title is by writing…’

‘As poets, we have a title to assert – a part of our inheritance lies unclaimed. And the way we assert our title is by writing. The way we refute, say, the death of the sonnet, or the reported demise of the epic, is not by argument but by assertion. My sonnet asserts that the sonnet still lives. My epic, should such fortune befall me, asserts that the heroic narrative is not lost – that it is born again, perhaps in some form which seems hardly at first recognisable, but nevertheless, there it is, born again.

As poets we do not ask permission before we begin to practise, for there is no authority to license us. We do not inquire whether it is still possible to pen a drama, for the answer to that question is ours alone to give. It is our drama, spoken or sung, that asserts our right to the title of poet. It is our decision that counts, and not the opinion of some theatre management, or the ponderings of the critic, or even the advice of our friendliest mentors. It is our decision, our assertion, that alters the whole state of affairs.

This is possible, we assert, because this is what I have just done. This is achievable, because I wanted enough to achieve it.’

 – James Fenton, An Introduction to English Poetry

‘The community of any English poem today is larger than any nation-state.’

‘English poetry extends back around 500 years, and its scope is the scope of the English language. That is to say, when a North American, an Australian, an Indian or a Jamaican writes a poem in English, that poem enters the corpus of English poetry. Of course it may be that the poet in question was intending to contribute to a national school of poetry, was intending to add his or her brick to the edifice of a national effort. But the community of any English poem today is larger than any nation-state. And besides, the geography of poetry is not the same as the geography of nation-states. Welsh poetry is written for Welsh-speakers wherever they may be. It is not written for all citizens of the United Kingdom. A Spanish poetry, written for Spanish-speakers in the United States, would enjoy a community, through language, with Hispanics everywhere. An Amharic poet, writing in Toronto about life on the streets of Toronto, would be writing for Ethiopians – or at least Amharic-speakers – everywhere. And a poet writing in Chinese has the notable advantage of being able to communicate with anyone who understands written Chinese: the community is in the script.’

– James Fenton, An Introduction to English Poetry