Why must we write?

Anthony Wilson

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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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