Social Skills for Poets

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It’s the launch party for my teen poetry collection Dog at the End of the World in three days, and a terrible thought has struck me:

I’m going to have to mingle.

Now, I’m sure there was a point in my life where I had social skills, (mostly chatting up graduate students at English faculty events,) but I have no idea how to start a conversation with a stranger if I can’t open with “soooo, tell me about your thesis…”

At this party I’m meant to be the centre of attention: creative, witty, intelligent, engaging. I’m meant to have something to say for myself. I am in terrible trouble.

I tried googling “social skills for poets”, hoping that some helpful person had written a website dedicated to this exact topic. I’m sure I can’t be the only poet out there who doesn’t know how to function in reality. But apparently it’s too niche even for the internet.

So I’m trying to create a bank of as many poetry-related conversation openers as possible. If you have any bright ideas, please let me know what they are.

The last time I went to a civilised gathering I was dressed as Grendel’s mum.

Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  1. Have you read my book?
  2. Don’t you find socks annoying?
  3. Should poetry be difficult to understand?
  4. Do you write? What are you working on?
  5. How many poets does it take to screw in a light bulb?
  6. Do you like cats? I like cats.
  7. So! Carol Ann Duffy, eh?
  8. Do you like my dress? I made it from a couple of men’s shirts and a tote bag.
  9. Would you like another glass of wine?
  10. So! Percy Bysshe Shelley, eh?
  11. Do you like stationery? I do. I have this one folder with multicoloured cows….
  12. So! John Milton’s early works, eh?
  13. If you could meet any dead poet for lunch, who would it be, and what would you eat?
  14. No really, would you like another drink? Look, your glass is empty – I insist!



With poems about sea monsters, emails, paradise birds, over-achievers, Anglo-Saxons, leaving home and socks, Helen Harvey’s debut collection Dog at the End of the World has been described by James Crowden as “”Brilliant, funny, inventive, alive, very alive, surprising, unexpected, funny, colourful, quirky, brilliant.” Illustrated by Rowan Wendes and published by March Hamilton, t is available to order now from Amazon, Waterstones, and Blackwell’s.

Cross posted from Helen Harvey, Wednesday 24th 2012.