I have been writing poetry for a mighty long time now – must have been at least 20 years. I did sent a small pack of poems to a publisher when i was about 17, and i got a nice letter back that compared my work to three rather famous even though somewhat dusty old dutch poets – Achterberg, Bloem and Marsman. The funny thing was at that time i hadn’t read any poetry at all so i had no idea who these guys were. I was simply too busy living my rather chaotic teenage punkrock life and since i didnt come from a ‘reading family’ and was hardly taught anything about it at school it never occurred to me to read poetry, I did read a lot, but mostly science fiction books.
I did start to read poetry later on and i soon found out that I mostly liked foreign poets, there are a few nice dutch poets but the overall quality is rather mediocre. I didn’t send poems to magazines or to publishers anymore, my idea was that if I was good enough a poet they would sooner or later ask me. So i just kept writing occasionally and then one day a writer, Adriaan Jaeggi, asked me if i ever thought about publishing, and i said why not and so on until my debut.
Now, at 41, I officially wrote only 3 books, but that’s because rather than publish a thin book every year or every two years i rather take the whole concept serious and try write something with some real ‘body’. These 3 books contain over 300 published poems, the equivalent of six normal poetry volumes.
I got a lot raving reviews, was called the most promising poet, yadda yadda. And yet I have never ever been asked for any jury memberships, for any editor position, for anything literary. Why not? Well, I made it perfectly clear to everyone that the current ape-hill of ‘literature’ means shit to me. It has too many ‘hidden rules’ that tell you you have to have the same values as everyone else, must like the same things, must laud the same people – it functions as an industry, and whomever is too critical is silenced or expelled.
Well, fine with me. I honestly prefer being able to voice my true opinions more than some sort of ‘success’ at the expense of my soul.
The strange thing, however, is that the same people who control this ape-hill now start accusing me of being ‘jealous of their success’.
Didn’t I make it perfectly clear that I don’t want their type of success? What do I need to do to make that clear? What kind of ‘success’ are we talking about, anyway? Most of these guys have never ever received reviews even close to mine in terms of positivity, hell, some of them never even wrote any books to begin with.
To me, there is only one type of ‘success’ as a poet: to write a truly good book of poetry. That’s what I have been interested in and that’s what I am trying to do. I don’t want to be in talkshows with my face. I don’t give a shit about ‘selling much’ and the whole media makes me feel as if I’m watching the muppetshow after dropping acid.
It’s weird to think anyone could even consider ‘success’ in any sort of other way. What is it supposed to be? Who on earth will remember all these second-rate demi-popularities twenty years later? Nobody, and they bloody well know it. You cannot network your way into real success. You cannot buy a soul. That idea must make them real depressed, but their constitutional depression, that looms behind every attention-fit they expose, is hardly a problem of mine. Jealous of your success? Sure dude, pop another Prozac. Don’t keep the audience waiting, Elton.