Genre Wars

A few opportunities have passed my eyes for submitting writing lately. Indeed someone contacted me to ask if I was interested in submitting something for their compilation book (the proceeds of which would go to charity). I looked at the submission criteria. They were looking for poetry and short stories. Poetry and short stories. My reputation as a writer had clearly taken hold in the imaginations of certain people but if I was being completely honest it had been a long time since I had written either. Infact I don’t think I’ve written poetry in about seven years, and I doubt I’ve written a short story since high school (about ten years ago).

And it wasn’t like I had stopped writing. It’s just that the genres I write in have changed. I write predominantly for an online audience (whether it’s personal stuff, or about creativity, or about online video). I’ve become fascinated with non-fiction and personal essays. Even the poetry gave way to song lyrics. For me song lyrics are much malleable than poetry. I can take certain liberties with words and the rhythm of phrases. I can syncopate sentences to match the music. I often don’t start with a lyric when I sit down to write a song so much as a ‘dummy lyric’ – a template on which to base future revisions.

In truth I don’t think I ever wrote short stories outside of a classroom setting where I was being marked on them. My teachers were very supportive of my efforts but I imagine that they were more impressed by the way I wielded the English language than, say, my plot and character development.

But, man, the poetry was really important to me. In fairness there was a part of me that always said he was writing ‘song lyrics’ and not poetry (though I hadn’t figured out how to compose music). I harboured a great personal belief that nobody read poetry. And yet when random pieces of my high school education come back to me in later life they are more often than not pieces of poetry I was required to study. Sure I had memorised them at the time but it isn’t just for reasons relating to route learning that they return to me. There are genuinely times when they express something I experience in my daily life. And the poetic form they take, with it’s particular use of rhyme and rhythm, provides an anchor for my memory to rest upon.

I think back to that time of my life, it seems rather curious to me. I was a poetry-writing machine. I couldn’t speak to the quality of what I produced at that time, but I was prolific. Prolific for no particularly obvious reason either. I mean, most of it was never read by another human being. But I was truly compelled to keep going, it just seemed like something I had to do. It is so different to how many of my projects today happen. Today I have to ‘psyche’ myself up to do something. Today I have to take small steps towards something so I don’t become completely neurotic and at the mercy of my paralysing inner-critic. Back then the library could’ve been on fire and that wouldn’t have stopped me from finishing my final stanza.

It’s such a contrast to how I am now. Now I have external motivations to write poetry. I have invitations to submit poetry to publications. I have online audiences. And yet it’s been so long I’m not sure I even remember how to do it.

I genuinely doubt I will have anything in time for submission but I have decided to try my hand at writing poetry again.

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  • You know, lately I’m feeling like art and writing for me are more about being more human, more alive … and they are less about getting published or being seen. Then again, it’s quite possible that I’ve come up with this new “belief” as an excuse for not pursuing actual publication. “I don’t need to get published in literary journals because that’s not what my art is about …”

    Is that a cop out? I can’t decide.

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