I recently borrowed a book on tape from the library called “What is a Poem?” In it, John Ciardi (1916-1986) discusses excellent examples of various ingredients in the making of poetry. However, the most amazing quote he provides comes from W.H. Auden, and this accurately describes my desire for writing poetry.
Auden was once asked what advice he would give a young man who wanted to write poetry. He said he would ask the man why he wanted to write. If the man answered, “Because I have something terribly important to say,” Auden would guess that the man was not interested in poetry. He might accomplish other things but he didn’t care enough about what poetry is.
If he said, on the other hand, “Because I like to hang around words and over hear them whispering to one another,” he was at least interested in the materials of poetry and given talent and devotion he might be able to make something of it.
The reason for writing the poem is the desire to make it as good as one can. This is the experience of self delight, the poet hanging around words to overhear them whispering to one another and making them come to joyously concluded selections for their own sake.
Because loving the medium is much more important than making rhetorical statements.