Sunday, February 26, 2012

Writing for a rock: On Butler's Monument

On the Setting Up Mr. Butler’s Monument in Westminster Abbey

While Butler, needy wretch, was yet alive
No generous patron would a dinner give.
See him, when starved to death and turned to dust,
Presented with a monumental bust!
The poet’s fate is here in emblem shown;
He asked for bread, and he received a stone.

~ attr. Samuel Wesley (1691-1739)

This will be a short post this week, as I wish to take time away from blogging for the writing of poetry, for which I may (some sweet day) be rewarded with… a stone. This poem (and the contemplation of writing more poetry) does beg the question: Why do we poets bother? Certainly not for a patron, or a meal, or a monument, as is implied in Wesley’s words.

Why do you write? Please ease my mind, and my writing burden, by filling in some of this empty space with your thoughts on the matter.

The Oxford Book of Short Poems, edited by P.J. Kavanagh and James Michie (Oxford University Press, 1987)


  1. Thanks for such a provoking prompt!

    I write different things for different reasons, but I'll think about writing poetry, because that's different from the others. I think that I write poetry because the experience of writing it, the process itself, takes me out of myself. The intensity of concentration that writing poetry requires (for me, writing closed-form poems, mostly sonnets) takes me out of being stuck in my own head; lets me taste the 'real-ness' of language; helps me really 'see' what I'm looking at. The poems I've written about particular places have helped me understand more fully and deeply what it was (and is) that connects me to that place - finding the words and images helped me find the meaning that was there, but that I hadn't grasped.

    So I guess for me, writing poetry is about the process, yet it also has to be something I share. Having a reader draws me out.

  2. Thanks, Holly. This really resonates with me, particularly, "...the experience of writing it... takes me out of myself." And also, "finding the words and images helped me find the meaning that was there..."

  3. Different types of writing obviously require different approaches, different methods and styles. In my case, I write short, simple book reviews to convey information and opinions; journaling and memoir are therapy, a process of sorting out what I feel and why, and what it is necessary to let go of, and what it is important to hold on to. Poetry for me is about focus - recognizing an object or a place or a moment in this mad rush, and paying particular attention to it, finding and honoring its essence. The poem becomes a point of clarity in the midst of chaos.

    1. Yes, focus, paying attention. Love this, "... finding and honoring its essence." Thanks so much, Becka.