There’s a good piece over on Alan Baker’s blog (it’s the second post down) concerning the whole process of evaluating your own work, and whether it’s possible to be a good judge of your own poetry.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, because as he says, I tend to find that the work I’m keenest for people to like (and publish) gets the thumbs-down, while the stuff I’m indifferent to or have even come to dislike gets a positive response.
And as he says, I think in the long run that’s a good thing – it reinforces the need for a good editor, and the value of taking your time and looking at your own work from as many different angles as possible, and it makes you think about the whole idea of a readership.
Not that I’m suggesting for a minute that any poet should be writing purely to please the reading public (let’s face it – for most of us, that’s a pretty small group). Just, I suppose, that having written what you want or have to write, it doesn’t hurt to view it through the filter of wider tastes than your own.
Just recently, I’ve had a couple of poems accepted by magazines after they’d sat on my hard drive doing nothing (other than very occasionally being tinkered with) for about three years. In both cases, I’d felt that I’d made a pretty bad fist of a poem that I really needed to write.
But, after both were taken by editors at the first attempt, I can see them in a slightly different light, and see why, perhaps, they actually work a lot better than one or two ‘pet’ poems of mine. I don’t think either are any more obviously accessible, or of the moment, than the unsuccessful poems, just that they pull their weight far better. One, at least, also now suggests itself as the title poem of a small series or collection of poems that I've been writing - again, without the outside opinion, I hadn't necessarily made the link between it and one or two other pieces.