The creative process in poetry: Poet Stephen Spender (Part 3)

In writing about the experience of writing poetry, the poet Stephen Spender makes the admission that, “There is no doubt that writing poetry, when a poem appears to succeed, results in an intense physical excitement, a sense of release and ecstasy; on the other hand I dread writing poetry…” (1)

He describes the actual task of writing a poem as “a terrible journey, a painful effort of concentrating the imagination; words are an extremely difficult medium to use, and sometimes, when one has spent days trying to say a thing clearly one finds that one has only said it dully…”

Spender’s emotions when writing poetry ranged from high excitement to dejection and often when he had finished a poem, he would think it his best effort to date, but, “A few days later after I have finished a poem, I relegate it to the past of all my other wasted efforts, all the books I do not wish to open.”

Although he was an experienced professional writer and poet, Stephen Spender also admitted to being emotionally affected by comments on his work:

“In common with other creative writers I pretend that I am not, and I am, exceedingly affected by unsympathetic criticism, whilst praise usually makes me suspect that the reviewer does not know what he is talking about.”

He asks, “Why are writers so sensitive to criticism?” and answers himself, “Partly, because every serious writer is really…concerned with reputation and not with success.”

(1) Stephen Spender, The Making of a Poem, from the Partisan Review, Summer, 1946; the version of the article I used was contained in a symposium or anthology of articles on the creative process in the book, The Creative Process, edited by Brewster Ghiselin; a Mentor Book, published by the New American Library, by arrangement with the University of California

Wikipedia has an informative article on Stephen Spender which you can find here:

— Dennis Mellersh

About Dennis Mellersh

Dennis Mellersh is an independent writer, journalist, editor, and editorial consultant.
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