Monday, December 14, 2015

Writing to improve your poetry

Want to be a writer, then write.  Want to be a poet, then write poems. Want to be good at either, keep
writing.

Astoundingly simple and ultimately solid advice.  You get good at anything by practicing.  In a video by Jackson Bates from the Poetry Show he talks about the assumption we make with regard to poetry and our writing ability.

We have been writing words, sentences, prose for most of our lives and hence we expect success with poetry to come fairly rapidly.  What is poetry other than words  organised differently on a page?

And here is the misconception; poetry is quiet fundamentally different from prose and schooling perhaps even university has been significantly weighted in favor of prose.

One of the issues I have of course is that the words don't always come.  "Sit down and write a poem" can be more difficult than it seems, more so when you are putting pressure on yourself to write good poetry.

If I return though to a lesson I learnt 2 years ago with the Post-It Note poetry event, it's that you need to give yourself permission to write poorly, woefully.  It's the practice of writing that helps.

Now to the other part of the equation which is on the job training, learning by doing.  I'd say I'm not going out on a limb to suggest that we don't educate people to write poetry, indeed in most cases I think poetry is used to teach mechanics of writing and to act as a subject of analytical study.

So really some guided writing is in order.  If I had the contacts, the money and the proximity I'd try and hunt down a mentor or a group. But in lieu of those I have been gathering some resources to provide a framework for practice.

Two books that I hope to use are:

Teach Yourself - Writing Poetry - as the title suggests a way to teach yourself how to write poetry. Some 20 odd chapters with examples and exercises that focus on a range of things like metre, visualization, choosing subject matter. 










52: Write a Poem a Week. Start Now. Keep Going brings together the 52 prompts written by poet Jo Bell and by guest poets, so that you can pick up the challenge yourself. With poems to illustrate each prompt, it's an anthology as well as a book of lively and engaging exercises for all poets.









The focus though is on writing not just on completing exercises.  So my hope is that these exercises will broaden my tool set and trigger inspiration. 

I intend to devote a more weighted portion of the "working day" to the writing and reworking of poems.  There shouldn't be a shortfall in material here.

Have you any resources to suggest dear readers?
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