– by Richard Scutter
Last year at the end of a poetry meet I was catching up with a group of writers when one young lady happened to call me “a bit of a closet poet”. To some extent I could entertain her thoughts and it is always interesting to see how others see us.
My dictionary defines closet as a state of concealment or secrecy as well as a cupboard or wardrobe tall enough to walk into. So I guess a closet-poet is one who wants to remain more backstage, at least at a personal level and there are plenty who write under a different name. However, no poet or writer in general can afford to closet their work—there must come a point in time for disclosure.
It is obvious to me that there are two fundamental pillars concerning poetry and any writing—the first the need to share draft work with others, essential in the development of any text, and the second concerning the way to disseminate completed work. The big question is how one supports these two pillars within the wider framework of how important writing is in the overall structure of on-going life. I will try to elaborate a little on how things currently stand with me.
The initial foray in disclosing your text is where it all starts. Taking your first words out of your closet takes courage and, if words define at a personal level, you could feel emotionally spiked by any thoughtless reaction from your chosen audience. My advice is to be selective and wait for the appropriate time and place in sharing your work. Hopefully, other writers who have experienced such initiation will be the most supportive. I am lucky to have an honest friend who reciprocates in the sharing of drafts. Of course, meeting like-minded people at workshops (and joining the ACT Writers Centre) can lead to the establishment of on-going sharing. I have certainly been helped in that regard.
My actual beginning started through garage sale attendance with my wife Maureen. I picked up a crumpled anthology, opened a page and read a poem which hit me to the core. This experience combined with a brother who writes motivated me to explore poetry and to start writing and to continue that interest.
IT and data analysis were integral to my working life in the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In my retirement, the business of data analysis has been replaced by the pleasure of text analysis. Instead of defining reality by metrics, I now try to understand reality of in terms of words. For me, poetry more than any other writing gives insight into how others see the world.
I have welcomed the IT development over the years which have brought world-wide access to an explosion of key driven text. Websites provide ready access to poetry. At a touch of a button you can access all Shakespeare’s sonnets coupled with a detailed analysis line by line. Writers can easily add their creations to the wealth of words confronting the electronic reading world. I recommend using free Blog Sites like Google’s Blogger or WordPress to promote your work.
When I first started writing I used a Google Blogger site as a filing cabinet for poems. At the same time, I appreciated the comments that flowed and occasionally still flow. After ten years I stopped filing in this way but I have kept the site live. Of course, I have been tempted to change text but mostly I have kept the original intact as a time span record. At the touch of a button, I can easily extract text to any Internet device.
I am a ‘free to air’ writer with no commercial interest and mainly Internet based but I have self-published a quality book of selected personal poems much to the thanks of Maureen and her book binding skills.
I know there are a lot of writers who have material on ice and are perhaps sidelined by other aspects of life. I would encourage you to thaw your words in the wider world, the internet being just one place to start. I am sure treats for the imagination are just waiting to walk out as C. S. Lewis would surely agree.
For the last five years Richard has been involved in the Belconnen University of the Third Age Poetry Appreciation Group and he will be co-ordinating activities in 2014. Blog Readers may be interested in this course and other courses in language and literature offered by ACT U3A for 2014 – http://www.u3acanberra.org.au/prospectus.html?subject=ELL