from Talks for Words

Roy Fisher

Long ago I formed the idea of becoming a poet by writing poems. I'd
tried painting, and I'd tried music, but had been oppressed by the
difficulty of avoiding academic training in these arts--an avoidance
which at the time seemed to me essential. But it was a time when nobody
in this country would have suggested that it was possible or desirable to
teach imaginative writing beyond the rudiments of school composition, so
my way was clear. My readings about poetry threw up very few prescriptions, and I was sorry rather than glad to find even those. I can remember struggling, rather unwillingly, to take to heart the warnings Wystan Auden issued in the preface of his selection from Tennyson. He said that if a young man came to him full of important things he wanted to say, then that young man would never be a poet; if, on the other hand, he said "I like hanging around words, listening to what they say," then maybe one day he would be a poet. I thought this a piece of rather mystical pedantry, but I saw the force of it. And it was probably my first acquaintance with the anthropomorphic view of language, the suggestion that it has a will of its own. It's one of those jokes that feeds off a real unease.


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