On Other Poets

Philip Guston left NY for the ‘burbs because he just couldn’t take the networking.

3 am. Unused to friendship.

3 am. Unused to friendship.

My friends are friends first, and if they happen to be artists, then so be it. But it is important you don’t get these things confused. Work hard to understand if you like a person. Don’t let art get in the mix. It so happens some of my friends are artists. But we have life in common, then art.

And what if your friends create art you don’t like? It’s like them having children you cant stand. I think I am at war with all writers. This has to do with the dysfunction of why I write. The impossible aim is to be better that other writers – without understanding what “better” means.

God it hurts when someone writes well. Though this is mitigated by them either being dead or having one foot in the grave.

I have one or two writing friends, but it has always been a mistake to talk writing when we meet. Far better to discuss something in life and to boozily form opinions and attitudes. I wouldn’t want a proper conversation about, say a poem of mine, or theirs. Horrors! To reflect soberly, or take and weigh a judgment or criticism just doesn’t bear thinking about. My poems are conversations with myself, triangulated between a viciously complex network of viewpoints and influences; made-up rules and the black-hole-suck of perceived artistic disasters.

And what do you imagine might happen if you achieve success with your art? Imagine the bitterness that will be projected at you. Get and bend the corrugated iron roof for your artistic Anderson shelter and take cover. Sharpen your pencil. Punch your keyboard. Never meet your heroes. Invent other ways to praise.


About grahamcliffordpoet

Graham is an award winning poet, based in London. He graduated from the University of East Anglia with an MA in Creative Writing, and has since published nationally and internationally, winning many awards and performing at some of the most prestigious and well known Literary Festivals. His debut collection, The Hitting Game, is published by Seren.
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2 Responses to On Other Poets

  1. I love this insight, Graham. Personally I do have writer friends but I also relate to “I think I am at war with all writers”! Who was it who said “every time a friend succeeds a part of me dies”?! My own bugbear is with Facebook which I find feeds the tendency for one-upmanship if one’s not careful. I’ve tried to take all my poetry-related stuff off Facebook as it was stressing me out.

    • Ha! As Facebook suggest, it’s complicated. Sounds a bit like Morrissey, who hates it when his friends become successful. And Auden mentions they [poets] should only be given the smallest amount of success, enough to stop them giving up but certainly not enough to have them too happy. We’re currently coaching our nine year through the tribulations around falling out and in with friends, and I realised that never ends. I just hope we can show her a few short cuts through. I tend to love most humans, its just fellow writers make my hackles come up. Perhaps I need some root canal work on my ego. Lovely to hear from you. Even though you are a writer! 🙂

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