‘…the values of creative work…’

‘Often when my friends pronounce responsibility about the values of creative work I experience a loss of contact. I want at such times to voice what may appear to be an antagonism, maybe even a wilful stupidity, about “culture.” To “learn the tools of writing,” to “understand the essentials of the craft,” to “base my practice on models that have proved to be fundamentally sound” – these apparently winsome and admirable phrases put me in a bleak mood. When I  write, grammar is my enemy; the materials of my craft come at me in a succession of emergencies in which my feelings are ambivalent; I do not have any commitments, just opportunities. Not the learning of methods, not the broadening of culture, not even the preserving of civilization (there may be greater things than civilizations), but a kind of dizzying struggle with the Now-ness of experience, that is my involvement in writing. And I believe it is this interaction between imagination and its embodiment as it develops which sustains the speaker and the writer – and sustains the artist in other materials.’

– William Stafford, Writing the Australian Crawl

‘…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

It is necessary to write…

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by.  How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?  For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone.  That is where the writer scores over his fellows:  he catches the changes of his mind on the hop. 

~Vita Sackville-West

‘It is the poet who goes further than any human scientist…’

‘It is the poet who goes further than any human scientist. The poet who with her dredging net must haul up difficult things and return them to the present. As she does this, the reader will begin to recognise parts of herself so nearly buried that they seem to have been buried from birth. She will be able to hear clearly the voices that have whispered at her for so many years. Some of those voices will prove false, she will perhaps learn to fear her own fears. The attendant personalities that are clinically labelled as schizophrenia, can be brought into a harmonious balance. It is not necessart to be shut up in one self, to grind through life like an ox at a mill, always treading the same ground. Human beings are capable of powered flight; we can travel across ourselves and find that self multiple and vast. The artist knows this: at the same time that art is prising away old dead structures that have rusted almost unnoticed into our flesh, art is pushing at the boundaries we thought were fixed. The convenient lies fall; the only boundaries are the boundaries of our imagination.’

– Jeanette Winterson, ‘The Semiotics of Sex’, in Art Objects