I Just Wrote This Five Minutes Ago are the words nobody wants to hear from a fledgling poet behind a microphone. The warning works hand-in-hand with another poetry-world mantra that’s emblazoned on the submissions page of countless litmag websites: “Before submitting, read one of our issues to get an idea of what kind of poems we publish.” Implying as they do a lack of effort, expertise, or knowledge, these statements keep normies away from the proudly embattled form that is poetry.
But Carl Watts’ first book of poetry criticism makes the counterintuitive argument that it is the nebulous lack of professionalism and prestige that makes poetry vital. Working his argument through a series of interlocking paradoxes, Watts shows how contemporary poetry creates meaning and value – an especially pertinent finding at a time when we’re expected to always be competing in the neoliberal race for self-improvement. Watts suggests that, at last, poetry might get real work out of us, in the process locating and grounding us among real people and a real practice.
I Just Wrote This Five Minutes Ago is forthcoming in Spring 2022.