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The gift economy

It’s not every day poetry appears in the news – even the local news – so I’m very grateful to Bedfordshire on Sunday for the short profile they ran on me recently. Which brings us to the subject of self-promotion. Yes, I feel guilty and embarrassed to be calling up the press and angling for coverage. There are, certainly, more pressing stories and there are probably more deserving causes.

All the same, poetry is my deserving cause, the one for which I have a special care. That means I want poems to be noticed, read, enjoyed, recalled. I want this for my own poems too, of course, I certainly have a special care for them, but if they are of value it is only as part of a broader activity of poetry-engagement. If a bunch of people ran around in whites knocking a ball about only once in the whole of time then they would not have played a game of cricket. Cricket is an institution with rules and repetitions, and the greatest googly is constituted not only by the physical trajectory of the ball, but how it relates to the rules and repetitions of the game. So a poem only gets to be a poem against the background of the human practice of reading, writing and thinking about poems.

In simply practical terms too, the ‘air of publicity’ is the only way for those interested in poetry to find each other. Given the lack of funding or money-making opportunities poets face paid-for marketing is only available to the very few. Poets are (perforce) doing it for themselves. So our poems are little gifts, for ourselves and the wider world and very happy when the gift of a little free exposure comes their way. Come along to Ouse Muse and let us bestow some.