Why do poets and writers write?

Bookstore Poetry Shelf

This is a question like a sliver that gets under your skin. It is like that wood splinter you received from running your hand along a wooden fence and the painful acceptance of it to the soft spot below your thumb sends you to the medicine cabinet where you try to remove it with tweezers. But it’s too deep and requires a poultice to draw the splinter to the surface for removal. It is that way with answering the question, why do poets and writers write?

In an online discussion[1] of poets and writers and arm-chair philosophers, I offered this to the ongoing conversation: Emerson wrote that “The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty.”[2][3] This rings true as to why writers write. Years ago I heard someone say, “We are God’s poème.”[4] (Poème derives from the Latin word poema meaning poem.) I have often pondered that as an answer for why writers write and wonder if that is what Emerson had in mind when he wrote those lines. We are God’s poem, that is why we say, name, and represent beauty.

What are your thoughts on the matter? What motivates you to write? and why?

NOTE: [1] Renée, “Why write?,” LinkedIn, April 25, 2013 accessed May 6, 2013 http://www.linkedin.com/group.
[2] The quote is from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s book Essays, Second Series from the essay “The Poets.” Here’s a link to an excerpt: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/495734-the-poet-is-the-sayer-the-namer-and-represents-beauty?.
[3] Or you can read the entire essay in this handsome collection: Emerson: Essays and Lectures: Nature: Addresses and Lectures / Essays: First and Second Series / Representative Men / English Traits / The Conduct of Life (Library of America) [Hardcover].
[4] This is a reference to a passage in chapter two of The Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians. William D. Mounce writes on the matter of the original Greek text in this article, Are We God’s Poem?.

2 thoughts on “Why do poets and writers write?

  1. It IS a deep questions that can’t be answered easily. A survey I took on a writing blog that I subscribe to asked that question first thing on an email survey for readers, and I really had to sit and think about it. I had to come up with a short answer. The question inspired a blog post; surprisingly, in eight years of blogging, I don’t think I’ve ever really answered that question. The blog post is forthcoming this week. 🙂

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