Why must we write?

Anthony Wilson


The poem that came into my mind on waking up this morning and hearing the General Election result is Mark Halliday’s ‘Why Must We Write?’ A proper tour de force of improvisation against ‘the wave of forgetting/ which is so common, so K-Mart,/ so have-another-basket-of-ribs-and-die’, it is the penultimate poem of my favourite collection of his, Jab. Even among that book’s mercurial shifts from stellar and often hilarious riffing to plummeting melancholy, it is a serious contender for stand-out performance.

Not least among the poem’s almost-didactic pleasures is its awareness, so often missing in contemporary poetry, that writing, specifically writing poems, takes place for all of us within an economic, and therefore political context: ‘Also for another 14 percent of us there will be/ decent tolerable jobs permitting in rather brownish ways/ a tolerable amount of the fine wordy dreaming/ we will die saying we need more of’. We…

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