My friend Helen lives in Scotland and her day job is gardening.
In her secret life, though, she’s a poet, and a good one, I think. I don’t often get to read her poems because she doesn’t like showing them to anyone. Not just me, anyone. I’ve asked her why she never sends them – even anonymously or under a pen name – to a magazine or in for a competition. She says she knows she is a poet, and she doesn’t have to do things like that to prove it.
While I appreciate that she has taken a valid standpoint in her own eyes, I find her attitude frustrating. How do you ‘be’ a poet – or any kind of writer? Does it not, at some stage, require witnesses?
I hate to think that when she is no longer here to receive the responses of her friends, her family, and the wider reading public, we will find a little – or perhaps huge – stash of unread verse.
Look, I’m asking you, the reader. I write plays – you cannot give a more public display of your creativity than making actors say your words on a stage.
But can you be a secret poet, or painter, or musician? Isn’t art a relationship?
Oh, and I hope 2012 will bring us all joy in whatever form we want to express ourselves.