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Getting started for new poets.

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Gyppo
Posts: 297
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 9:28 pm
Location: UK

Getting started for new poets.

Post by Gyppo » Sun Apr 01, 2018 7:22 pm

    Heresy:

    This is going to sound like heresy to some would-be poets.  You don't need a major theme to write a poem.  I would even argue you don't need to be inspired.  But you do need a starting point.  Even then you may find the starting point was nothing more than that and the final poem has so little in common with what you thought it was going to be you can delete the first verse or two and lose nothing.

    I generally write prose, and one of the 'rules' there for clear and effective writing is to 'start late and finish early.'  Jump in at a crisis point, or with a bold statement, and credit the reader with the intelligence not to need a lengthy preamble and an epilogue of tidying up at the end.

    For me poems generally start with an overheard phrase (quite often) which triggers a train of thought.  Sometimes a photograph, but not so often.  A photo of an empty storm swept beach is more likely to press my poetry buttons than a crowded Bank Holiday Hell no matter how colourful.  (This may hint at some deeply buried melancholia where I am more comfortable alone than with crowds.)

    My main trigger is little everyday things, like the first green fingers of Spring pushing through still cold soil, or the buds on the hedge opening just enough to show the merest hint of green.  (I find myself stroking the first few and saying hello.)  Or a long abandoned tractor in a field.  Or a solitary shaggy-coated horse tethered at the roadside, suggesting a Gypsy van somewhere nearby.

    These snapshot mental pictures, filmed by the mind in passing, out of context like a solitary starfish on a beach which won't go away and beg me to answer the questions posed by Kipling's 'Six Honest Servicemen'.  Who?  How? What?  Why?  Where?  When?

    They lack the constraint of a real paper photographs, which you know have a fixed story of their own.  The mind pictures allow you a free rein.

    I'll stick an example of one of mine at the end, which grew from the briefest of glimpses seen in passing.

    But none of this will help you if you bumble through life without seeing things and feeding your own curiosity.

    Any fool can look, but it takes a writer or a poet to see.

    Second Heresy:

    It doesn't have to perfect whilst you're writing it.  Trying to perfect every line as you write it, before allowing the poem to emerge, is like driving a car with the brakes on.  You're stacking the odds against getting anywhere.

    Far better to have an unfettered mess which you can then comb out and polish than one perfect but orphaned first line.

    I often reorder things after writing them.  The initial poem in your mind is usually an emotion or strong opinion, and it can look very wrong on paper.  But it's so much easier to rework the tangible words in front of your eyes.

    The Example: (Based on one of those mental snapshots.)


Patrin

Hurrying by late with things to do
I saw you camped by the roadside.
Your angled kittle iron holding a blackened pot
above a tidy fire of ash or hazel.

Your hobbled vanner grazing the grass verge,
three kids sat on the vardo steps, 
a momentary glimpse tucked away
in the roadside trees.  Then hidden by a bend.

Rising early after a restless night,
finding nothing but a ring of cold ash,
wheel ruts in the dew-damp grass,
and no patrin to follow.

You probably use a mobile phone now
to summon those you wish to meet.
You wouldn't expect someone 'living in brick'
to know the old signs. 

Gyppo
I've been writing ever since I realised I could.  Storytelling since I started talking.  Poetry however comes and goes  ;-)

indar
Posts: 1119
Joined: Sun Jan 07, 2018 3:00 pm

Re: Getting started for new poets.

Post by indar » Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:51 pm

Hi Gyppo,

Always generous with your writing--I, for one, will appreciate your presence here.

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Gyppo
Posts: 297
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 9:28 pm
Location: UK

Re: Getting started for new poets.

Post by Gyppo » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:13 pm

It's feeling a bit like the good old days at MWC.
I've been writing ever since I realised I could.  Storytelling since I started talking.  Poetry however comes and goes  ;-)

Sharon Leigh
Posts: 223
Joined: Sun Jan 07, 2018 11:07 am
Location: Midwest US

Re: Getting started for new poets.

Post by Sharon Leigh » Fri Apr 06, 2018 11:13 pm

Thank you for sharing this, Gyppo. Some excellent, encouraging advice!
"This creature of the poem may assemble itself into a being with its own centrifugal force."-- Sharon Olds

NM Oliver
Posts: 40
Joined: Sat Sep 01, 2018 1:16 pm

Re: Getting started for new poets.

Post by NM Oliver » Sat Sep 01, 2018 7:18 pm

Gyppo
I found this really interesting and also reassuring especially the comb and polish approach, makes total sense.

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