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'A lot of energy and stamina and patience'

14 April 2014

'I don't dedicate my day to poetry like you would do with a job. You can't get yourself a office and sit there from 9 to 5 writing poems - it just doesn't work. With prose I can knock it out, but it's an effort to write poems because they're so intense. You need a lot of energy and stamina and patience to just sit there and fall under a poem's spell. I'm not casual with my poetry, though. When I'm engaged and writing poems I'm completely disciplined and deadly serious. I really mean it...

You need real commitment and passion to write poems. If you haven't got that you wouldn't be able to put up with all the knockbacks and failure. When I first started sending poems out to small magazines I could have wallpapered a medium-size bedroom with rejection slips. You have to fail many, many times and write a lot of shit poems before they start to read well. But if poetry is what you absolutely want to do, then you can't help it; you'd still be writing irrespective of whether you had any affirmation or success.'

Simon Armitage, whose latest books are The Death of King Arthur and Black Roses, in The Times