Did you know that poetry is undergoing something of a revival? According to Susannah Herbert, Executive Director of National Poetry Day, one in 33 of all UK adults wrote at least one poem last year which amounts to about two million people writing poems, although presumably not all at the same time. That is nearly double the number that were writing poems in the 1990s. New platforms are emerging for poets faster than you can say “I wandered lonely as a cloud”, with the gate-keepers of the traditional publishing houses being sidelined in favour of internet groups, social media (especially Instagram apparently), cafes, You Tube, theatres, poetry slams and clubs.
It seems that it has never been a better time to be a poet, so if you fancy joining the ranks of paper or performance poets, here are a few tips on writing poems that you might find useful.
|You don't need a publisher to be a poet|
1. Don’t feel you have to finish every poem that you start to write. If it’s not working, leave it and try something else. The work you have already done may spark off something else in your subconscious that could lead to a new and better poem later on. Nothing is wasted.
2. Use the brainstorming technique if you want to write a poem on a particular theme. For instance, if you’re keen to write a poem on Brexit (and who isn’t?) put the word ‘Brexit’ in the middle of a sheet of paper and spend a few minutes writing down every single thought that comes into your mind. Don’t censor anything at this stage. Let your subconscious mind come up with ideas, then wait for a while to see which ones your conscious mind directs you towards.
3. Keep an open mind and be prepared to step out of your comfort zone with a poem if you feel it is leading you that way. The poem will work itself out in the end if you trust your instincts, although it might not be the one you were expecting to write.
|Step out of your comfort zone|
4. Don’t worry too much about metre, rhyme, metaphor and all that “poetry stuff” you were taught at school, especially in the first draft. Pretty much anything goes these days with poetry and although mastering such conventions can improve a poem’s intentions and help to engage the reader more fully, it is important that they serve you and not the other way round.
5. Read other people’s poems or listen to poets performing their work. It sounds obvious but if you enjoy writing poems (and if you don’t, then please take up hang-gliding instead) you need to enjoy reading or hearing them too.
6. Don’t be anxious about poetry. There are far more important things to be anxious about. (Did I mention Brexit?) As the American poet Allen Ginsberg said, “It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.” So if you feel ready to make your private world public, just go for it.
|Allen Ginsberg (Photo Credit: Ludwig Urning CC)|
And just to prove that I can put my money where my mouth is (although as a poet there is not a lot of that about unless you happen to be the next Allen Ginsberg), here is one of my own poems.
Some nights, you just need burgers and chips
with cool-perfect onion rings,
slices of damp tomato
and sticky toffee pudding for afters.
Some nights, you just need dark, dreamboat sleep,
soothed by the somnambulant sirens
of the shipping forecast,
to a place where even dreams have ears.
Some nights, you just need steam-warm, silk-snagged skin,
pressed into the mirror of your thighs,
helping you to forget that today
someone laughed and pointed at a rainbow.
Copyright 2007 Melissa Lawrence, first published in The New Writer magazine.