picking up where I left off last night/early morning...
If it were fame or fortune, that caused (or inspired) me to write, someone please hit me with a brick! I suspect that the motivation of a great many are not dependent on either money or notoriety. Otherwise, a great many people remain quite optimistic about their future wealth or fame.
Actually, a good many writers of fine poetry bask in a fair amount of obscurity. Really, far more then they deserve for their efforts. You see, I am convinced that poetry, while often rewarding on some level, is seldom providing monetary reward or acknowledgement compensatory to the work itself.
In thinking about this question on a personal level, I suppose there are a couple things that I believe are driving forces for me. One is that issue of immortality. Create something that lives on, past your own mortal limits. This is a strong issue with me. I suspect it I am not alone in this regard.
Another factor is simply having something to say. I believe many an individual is starving to say something that matters. To be heard. Writing offers that outlet and poetry is a wonderful vehicle. But writing is only a beginning. If we write will it really matter unless it is read? The cultural advent of blogs begs this be answered perhaps more than the poetic community at large. On some scale, being heard matters. It matters a lot. Still, I think in this day and age not being silenced is even the most basic important aspect. While saying and be heard is like having cake and eating it too... saying it period has value. So for me, I write first - for myself. Second, to and for the benefit of others.
There is much cynicism in poetry today on every level. Many young people don't see much value in the poetry of past generations and some don't even find more modern poetry to offer them much relevance. But the cynic of the craft is even found in many publishing houses where consideration of poetry is often discarded in favor of the bottom line. Oscar Wilde, the Irish born writer, humorist and poet once remarked, a cynic is a "man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." Poetry knows many such people.
Still, it survives. Poetry lives. Even in the raging battle between mainstream poetry and post-post modernism. It evolves and adapts. It is a "culture creature." That is, it lives on the very evolutionary model that thrives as people evolve. What is sad, at least from my own perspective, is that there is a good deal of poetry from each generation or period that has significance as though it were a DNA sample of that place and time. We should be delighted at the opportunity to read it, hear it, examine it. Experience it in a way that gives us back something as a part of that understanding. I'm not saying we have to take all poetry as "good" writing.... but I think each period of history must surly have something that adds value to our own life experience.
So it is.... I have managed to drift afar from the initial question of why I, or anyone for that matter writes? However, if we can agree that poetry allows us to experience something of value... then writing, reading, sharing poetry contributes to the wholeness of ourselves and perhaps others as well. We can lament those who push it aside for what they miss but we must never let the cynicism that abounds for poetry deprive us or silence us.