Litter Home Page

 Header image
A Test for Poets


Questions by Martin Stannard, answers by Peter Hughes

1. What is your first thought when you wake up in the morning?

          Blimey, I made it through the night.

2. Would you rather be a pop star than a poet?

           No because pop stars lose their hearing early.

3. What is the best time of day to write a poem?

           The best time of day to write a poem is just after it has called.

4. What role does the ego have to play in the art of poetry?

           The ham role.

5. Does poetry matter?

           Poetry matters a good deal.

6. Is there such a thing as a Poetry Establishment?

           You’d have to ask Andrew Motion or someone.

7. Can the craft of poetry be learned?

           The craft of bad poetry, yes.

8. Does poetry need a subject?


9. Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?


10. Is it better for the poet to be
(a) unrecognized
(b) underrated
(c) unknown
(d) undressed


11. Is it reasonable that many of our "best" poets are actually no good?

          ‘Reasonable’ is probably not the right word but ‘inevitable’ might be.

12. Is the internet a kind of poetry?


13. Which of the following best approximates to the distance between the poems you wanted to write and the poems you have written?
(a) a couple of inches
(b) a mile
(c) from here to eternity
(d) more than words can say

           I went metric on 28th September 1983 so the answer is about 8 litres.

14. Is your poetry too personal?

           Poetry is always too personal in disguise.

15. Is poetry sociable?

           Poetry is gregarious in disguise too.

16. Have you ever dreamed a marvellous poem only to find it was gone upon waking?

           No but I once found one under my pillow.

17. In which of the following periods was it a joy to be a poet?
(a) the Elizabethan Age
(b) the 1950s
(c) the Thatcher years
(d) last weekend

           It was never a joy to be a poet except during the interval.

18. Is it possible to be original?


19. When you write a poem do you discover a larger better version of yourself?

           I don’t find a larger better self but more of a larger better shopping list.

20. Is self-doubt important for the poet?

           Self-doubt is irrelevant.

21. Are you sure?

           Not really.

22. Is there any subject unfit for poetry?

           Subjects unfit for poetry include the royal family & hedges, especially when combined.

23. Look at the following drawing. Do you see
(a) a horse
(b) the Taj Mahal
(c) Manet's Olympia
(d) the poet laureate [choose one]

           This drawing illustrates continental drift.

24. In which city is it best to be a poet?

          It is best to be a poet before you get to the park & ride.

25. Are your poems in colour or black and white?

           My poems are black & white but some have been partly coloured in.

26. How do you usually feel when you hear other poets read their work?
(a) uninterested
(b) depressed
(c) suicidal
(d) elsewhere {tick as appropriate}


27. Did you ever count syllables whilst writing a poem and, if so, do you now realize it was a mistake?

           Yes & no in that exact order.

28. Is it possible to be both a poet and a nice person?

           Oh yes

29. How many times have you given up on poetry?


30. How many times has poetry given up on you?


31. Which weather is best suited to the writing of poetry?
(a) summer calm
(b) autumn mists
(c) typhoon
(d) sunshine and showers

           The best weather for poems is the best weather for everything else.

32. For whom do you write?

           I write for the whole world which is about 17 people.

33. Is poetry the same as real life?

           Poetry is part of real life.

34. Is poetry these days a young man's game? Or a young woman's?

           Poetry doesn’t know about age.

35. Do you have any idea what the poets in Ghana are doing these days?

           I don’t know what the poets in Fakenham are doing these days let alone those in Ghana.

36. Do you think anyone really understands what you write?

           As long as one person hums along from time to time I don’t mind.

37. Is the maintaining of a healthy diet and a clean and ethically sound lifestyle important if the upcoming 21st century poet is to be "taken up" by the Poetry


           Yes, as long as they have had a filthy past which they now repent.

38. Should a poet dress
(a) fashionably
(b) eccentrically
(c) what might best be described as "neutrally"

           Poets should dress so as not to freeze to death.

39. How may a poet tell when they have "peaked"?

           It is good for the nerves to peak at least once a day.

40. At what age should one retire from poetry and bow out gracefully?

           Poets should never retire unless they’re ones I don’t like.

41. What is the difference between a poet and an undertaker?

           Poets prefer to dig things up.

42. Is the culling of poets the way forward?

           Culling is an ugly term which usually masks another ugly agenda.

43. Has the idea of "influence" had any influence on your writing, and do you think you have influenced other writers?

           Yes & no.

44. A propos Question 43, has the evil of plagiarism ever disturbed your tranquility?

           My puddings are full of other people’s plums.

45. How many friends do you have?


46. Has poetry had its day and, if so, what day was it?


47. Do you think your poems will continue to live when you don't?


48. What is your last thought before you fall asleep at night?

           I wonder if

49. Do you sleep well?


50. What's for dinner?





Copyright © Peter Hughes and Martin Stannard, 2016. "A Test for Poets" is published in "Poems For The Young At Heart" by Martin Stannard, pub. Leafe Press, 2016.