not nice

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post inspired by the words “poems are hard”, which appeared on a local pub chalkboard. It’s not just the poems themselves that are hard, though: it’s even hard to get people to agree on what poetry is.

Some people think that poetry should deal with the big issues of Life, Love and Death, others that it should be all kittens and flowers, sweetness and light; some think it should make us look at familiar things and occurrences as if they were new; others that it should make the personal universal; some think it should have structure and be carefully crafted, others that it should rhyme, others that it should be written “from the heart” and therefore anything goes.
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creative grit

The guy at the pub is right: poems are hard.

Sometimes you have a great idea – the tiny bit of grit with potential to grow into a beautiful pearl – but however much you turn and tweak and worry it, it seems to refuse to gather form and realise its potential.

When this happens, all you can do is put the notes to one side and let your subconscious go on working while you get on and do other things.
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clichés and coincidences

Novice poets are frequently warned about clichés; sometimes, though, it’s hard to know exactly what the people doing the warning have in mind. Is a cliché the same as an idiom? Is it just a common collocation of words? Can a single word be a cliché?

(In answer to that last question, I’ve posted several times in the past on the subject of “forbidden words” in poetry.)

The thing about clichés is that they mean the writer hasn’t done more than scratch the surface. And for poetry that matters a lot more than for some other types of writing.
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know your onions

I said yesterday that when I lack inspiration I can always go back to old pieces and re-write them. There are, after all, hundreds of poems in my files, and I don’t suppose any of them is quite as good as it might be if I worked on it again now time has passed and I can be more objective.

Sometimes it’s a question of taking the same subject and looking at it from a new perspective; sometimes it’s changing the form – maybe seeing what happens if I remove all the line and stanza breaks and rejig, or maybe taking a free verse piece and putting it into a formal structure such as a sonnet.
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perspectives

Regular readers will probably have realised I rather like dandelions.

Well, not just dandelions, but catsears, hawksbeard and coltsfoot, and all the other wonderfully named, bright, yellow composite weeds with flowers like the radiant suns that dot the pages of children’s picture books.

I like the seed heads, too, with their downy parachutes counter-balanced by tiny elongated seeds.

Which probably explains why there are so many of them scattered across the pages of this blog. Perhaps not as many as there are on the wide green lawns in the park, but plenty, nonetheless.
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changing voice and mood

Next week I’m taking part in an evening of readings and yesterday I received an email reminding me that I needed to supply a biography and also give some idea of genre and tone for the pieces I’ll be reading. The suggestions offered were: “prose/ poetry; fiction/ non-fiction; light/ serious”.

I understand that the running order will probably work better if tragedy isn’t sandwiched between doggerel, but I don’t usually make decisions very far in advance – after all, I might yet write a new piece that is just perfect for the occasion – so just at the moment I have no idea what I’m going to read.
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taking notes

Yesterday I mentioned that I haven’t been writing recently. This is, of course, a lie: there are always fragments of ideas that get jotted down or filed away in memory until the right context and focus is found.

Those that remain in memory will surface sporadically, looking for something to connect to. And I’ll come across odd phrases scribbled on paper some time in the future when I’m clearing up and maybe type them onto the computer or add them to a file of papers where they are less likely to get lost.

Eventually some of them will link up and a poem may start to brew, or I may find a use for some of them alongside a photo here on the blog.
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