Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Age before Ink?

Fig 1. Silly boy...

In  the last few issues of The Rialto, there has been a great deal of discussion about poetry written by the young. In this case under 35, well you can imagine my relief being 32 at time of printing. Now I'm 33, with not so long to go before my 36th birthday grabs me by the ankles and pulls me into a pit of decrepitude. According to Nathan Hamilton, lovely man, us 30-35s are still young because our 'frontal cortex' has 'not finished developing.' Therefore, 'good news: at 35, you are still a young poet.' Well that made me feel like cracking open a bottle of cider and hanging out at the shopping precinct in a Nirvana T-Shirt. But then, oh misery, someone wrote a letter saying that 30-35 was 'too old,' apparently many of us have a 'des res, double garage and two children by then.' Well I have twins and I'm fond of where I live so that's more sand grains through the hourglass then. Blimey. Then I read a letter by D.A. Prince, a local poet, a very gifted local poet who I've read and have listened to at various readings, saying the debate is 'irrelevant.' You know I think it's partly Chatterton's fault. There's this obsession with youth and writing, when perhaps there needn't be. I suppose it's all those smouldering portraits of young romantics that support this myth. But if Nathan Hamilton still thinks I'm young, then great. I'm off for a joy ride in my hoody, thanks Nathan, on behalf of many confused early 30 somethings.
                 Perhaps the most positive reason for getting excited about young writers is one of promise. Obviously if someone is a gifted young writer, than surely it means that they can only continue to progress and write wonderfully as they age, (you know, even at 38, 39 for instance*). At worst, I hate it when publishers think they can capitalise on a sexy photo of some young thing. Perhaps this happens a little more in prose? I'd like to think writing is writing and not the X factor. There are many gifted older writers about who are in their 70s, 80s and beyond. Les Murray, Roy Fisher, Ruth Stone, Gerard Benson, Diana Athill and others I could mention. Thomas Chatterton was a silly boy.

(* this is called IRONY.)


  1. You said,

    'I hate it when publishers think they can capitalise on a sexy photo of some young thing. Perhaps this happens a little more in prose? I'd like to think writing is writing and not the X factor.'

    I say: Those lords of yay or nay can only suggest how to market the younglings, so I find it difficult to be hating them in isolation. Writing can't escape the dreaded beast that is the media, it's continual grovelling at the feet of the lowest common denominator. But don't worry. The only writing that will survive these careerist times will be written by young and old alike. No amount of PR can create true cultural longevity. Go team Jacob! No, seriously, it's all about wolves. Vampires suck.

  2. Hi John, nice to meet you here. Thanks for your comments. People vote with their taste and their wallets ultimately.
    BTW I'm showing my ignorance here, who's Jacob?

  3. Jacob is a character in Twilight. You're going to delete from Facebook NOW. And isn't it strange that the social stigma of being deleted is what seems to come up when people have a major tiff? Is real life so worthless? Tastes and wallets are nothing compared to the mighty sword of cultural insight. Let the fools spend - history is already farting in their faces.

  4. Rimbaud gave up writing aged 20, having changed the face of French poetry. Thomas Hardy wrote his finest love poetry in his 70s. Age seems a pointless way to classify poets. Nice post Maria, I've linked to it on Twitter.


  5. Thanks, Alan. Glad you enjoyed you reading this, Maria