My paper reflects on an archive of in-depth interviews I and my colleagues have recorded with Anglophone poets, from a variety of countries, North and South. In particular, I reflect on responses to a question that split that field into two opposing camps. It concerned the function of spontaneity in poetic composition. The majority of poets interviewed said yes, often quite enthusiastically, to Auden’s proposition that when we ‘genuinely speak’ we are unaware of what we are about to say; many also seemed happy to affirm his implication that this is a key source of poetic value. Those who rejected these ideas were often passionate on the matter as well.