The business of a poet

‘It is the business of a poet, I think, to be destitute as well as honest. He may have money; but he should recognise that it is dirt. He may have prestige; but let him hate it and wear it like an old filthy coat. Then he may be able to stay awake a little better. Love will not harm him, though. It will slice him open like a fish, and hang him by the heels, and let the sun into his private bag of dreams and idiot ambitions. He will think he is dying when he is just beginning to wake up’. – James K. Baxter, cited in Paul Millar, Spark to a Waiting Fuse: James K. Baxter’s Correspondence with Noel Ginn (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2001), 72.

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