Some thoughts on poetry from Peter Daniels

Round up the usual precepts: a poetry manifesto


Poetry is what you can get away with.

There are rules, and ways to break them. There are boundaries, some breakable, some not.

The poem means itself inside a space between poet, reader and subject matter. This triangle has flexible sides, but is within the world of shared existence, shared consciousness of a subject, shared language.

Poems are made of language, and contained in meaning.

You can break the meaning barrier once historically (Dada), you probably have to break it at least once as an individual, but meaninglessness is worthless in itself.

The value in ritually breaking the barrier is to remind us it keeps out the chaos.

Chaos is a dead end as a destination, but you can bring things over from it (Eliot’s “raids on the inarticulate”).

Nurture the reader’s trust, trust the reader’s understanding.

Poetry depends on being simultaneously opaque and transparent. It can’t be only one or the other. The pebble and the pool.

The poem exists in real time, during which the ripples are spreading.

Almost any poem has to be read twice, first for strangeness, second for clarity.

New formalists and the avant garde are hobbyists, trainspotting rather than travelling.

Trainspotters are harmless, and can be good for standards: they notice things, though usually only one class of thing.

Poetry is for noticing things, not only attention-seeking for poets.

Enjoyment, engagement, awareness.

Which includes awareness of poetry’s own general uselessness; and exceptions to this.

Patience, humility, courage.

Borrowing pictures for poems is laziness: buy tramadol online here’s something Rembrandt made earlier. Observe the life he observed and make your own pictures.

Borrowing music is another laziness. I’m Frank O’Hara and this is what’s on the jukebox in this cool café. Poems make their own music.

We are many, living in a mass culture, sharing a lot of subject matter. You can’t ban subjects but the value is in the telling. Shared cultural reference isn’t enough to rely on, either.

Listen to your betters and your peers, and follow your instinct.

The road of excess is worth taking; also the road less travelled.

Identity poetry gets boring, but the issues are still live.

A grudge is probably essential but some grudges are unproductive, especially grudges about poetry.

Poetry needs reading aloud, because language must have a mouth.

Poetry needs putting on a page, so you can see it in front of you.

Reading aloud and publishing poetry should be done well.

The poem is what matters, not the poet. Poems don’t happen without poets, but good ones may get a life of their own.




Peter Daniels has won several prizes – first prize in the 2010 TLS Poetry Competition, the 2008 Arvon Competition, the 2002 Ledbury competition, and was twice a winner in the Poetry Business pamphlet competition.  His publications: pamphlet Mr Luczinski Makes a Move (HappenStance, 2011); first full collection Counting Eggs (Mulfran) and translations of Vladislav Khodasevich (Angel Books).  Find out more here:


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