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Miles To Go Before I Sleep

by Jough Dempsey
13 February 2002

Poetry is part of my life. That may be obvious, considering that I run a web site dedicated to poetry, but it was quite a revelation to me. It wasn't just that I read poetry, but that at some point poetry became a part of who I am, and wasn't just something that I was interested in, or a mere hobby. I've never believed that a person was what they did for a living - and I still maintain that my life is not my job. Yours probably isn't either. Maybe I'd feel differently if I worked in a "poetry factory" and constructed poems for someone else all day - maybe I wouldn't want to pick up a book after work, or fire up the word processor late at night and begin working on a poem. I thought that I may share some of my ideas (and other people's plagiarized ideas) about poetry with you.

Getting down to business.

I wanted to start this series of articles with an introduction, so that I may tell you a little about why I am writing these articles. Mostly I just want to figure out for myself what it is that I want to accomplish as I continue writing this series.

What these are not.

These articles are not going to be formal in the least. I'll most likely not be using "big" words and my sentences will not be constructed according to the rules of grammar that was drilled into my head through many (does six count as "many"?) years of parochial (that's a big word for "Catholic") school. I hope to not have too many spelling mistakes, given the wonders of modern technology. A few may still creep in, as I'll be typing very quickly and not looking back. I tend to write in a fairly free-form way, although I'm a structuralist at heart. So hopefully I'll be able to strike a balance between clarity and whimsy. I also know that I overuse parenthetical asides (like this one) and over-emphasize every three words. Please forgive these little quirks and don't hold them against me too much. I hope to keep my quirks to a minimum.

Speaking of quirks and formality, I will not be addressing any fashionable critical perspectives - these articles will be written (this is starting to sound like a manifesto) with one perspective - my own. I know of no other and would be doing us all a disservice by shoehorning my thoughts on a particular subject into a particular critical view. I get distracted easily enough, and will never keep this up if I'm not enjoying myself, and not contributing anything new or necessary to the world, which brings me to my next point...

You're doing this... why?

Beginning this series was actually a bit of a struggle for me - I think I needed to justify (to myself, mostly) why these articles needed to be written. The Internet has made it very easy for just about anyone to self-publish, and so it seems that just about everyone has a web page that allows anyone in the world (provided they can access the Internet, granted) the ability to read something that they wrote. It's egalitarianism at its finest. No editors, no judges, just lots of text, mostly about people's pets and significant others.

The problem, of course, is that since anyone can make a web page, everyone does. Usually other people's opinions bore me.

It took a great deal of ego-pumping to convince myself that what I had to say about art, and poetry, in particular, was worth reading. You could be doing anything, or reading any number of other pages on the web, but you chose to read mine. I'll try not to forget you as I write these articles.

I don't want to pander, either. As entertaining as I'll try to make these articles I still have a job to do. My self-appointed task is not to educate you, not to entertain you, but ultimately to (and I already regret thinking of typing this next phrase since it sounds so "touchy-feely") engage in a dialogue with you (see?) about poetry.

To that end I hope that you'll e-mail me with comments or suggestions for future articles. Just send an e-mail to series@plagiarist.com and let me know what you like, don't like, or want to read about. I'll try to oblige (although I have a sixth-sense for homework essay topics - I'm not going to be doing your homework for you).

Lastly, I decided to write about writing poetry rather than about reading or analyzing particular poems - although the most important thing for a writer to do is to read voraciously, as many poems as you can cram down. It's impossible to be over-influenced. Reading other poems will not corrupt your creativity. On the contrary, if you never read a single book of criticism and just focus on reading poems, you will probably gain a better understanding of what makes a poem work, which can only help your own writing. Read read read. I just wanted the focus of these articles to be on writing because a) there are fewer resources online about writing poetry, and b) I would be more interested in covering this aspect of poetry. I hope that those who read poems for pleasure will gain an appreciation for how poems are constructed, even if they're not reading these articles for the purpose of learning about how to write poetry.

I should come back... when?

Knowing of my own procrastination and lack of inertia after beginning a daunting project like this, I'm not going to set any solid dates for when my next article will be released. The homepage (and the footer of every page - scroll down) features a little box where you can subscribe to our newsletter. If you enter your e-mail address you'll receive a notification whenever I add a new article.

As a general guide I'd say that I'll be writing a new article at least once a month. Some months I may write more often, or at greater length, but that's the current plan.

I'll continue to revise this page as the series progresses and begins to take its own shape. Until then, I've been adding one or two articles a month, which seems to be a pretty easy pace to keep up.

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading and I hope to make coming back here worth your while.


-- Jough Dempsey

Jough Dempsey is a poet & critic and the webmaster of Plagiarist.com, an online poetry resource for the broken-hearted. In his spare time he enjoys writing poetry (go figure).

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