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‘Poetry is a craft’

15 November 2004

'But perfectly sane people seriously expect their doggerel to be published in a national newspaper or by the publishing house that fostered T S Eliot and Philip Larkin. They enter poetry competitions in the hope that maybe, just maybe, this time they will shoot to fame and what passes in the poetry world for fortune. It is indeed like the lottery and the odds are probably about the same.

Perhaps it's because of the mystique surrounding poetry that people think they can knock off a few words and watch them transform, like magic, into something they call a poem. Sadly, it's not like that. Poetry is a craft and it starts with reading. "I think," said the poet Michael Longley, "that technique is important. If most people who called themselves poets," he added, "were tightrope-walkers, they'd be dead."'

Christina Patterson in the Independent