Tuesday, 14 December 2010

From Scribbles to Poetry

Celia Warren

"When did you start writing poems and stories?" is a question children often ask me. It is so long ago I can hardly remember, but I do know I scribbled letters on the bottom of my pull-along truck of bricks, long before I could read. I must have been copying my older brother and sister, I think.

Now, when a grown-up says to me, "I'd like to be a writer one day", I feel slightly bemused. A writer is not something you decide to be - today, 'one day', or ever; it's what you do. It's what you can't stop yourself doing. It's what I've been doing since I could hold a pencil. So, if you want to be a writer 'one day' - get off this website and go and start writing. NOW! There's no time to waste. (You can come back and read the rest later, if you like.)

At about the age of seven, I started producing a weekly magazine for my parents and brother and sister to read. It was called 'Morning Magazine', and I rarely missed a week for - um - about six or seven years! (In the school holidays, there would sometimes be two editions in one week!) I filled it with my own poems, favourite poems by published poets, my own stories, articles and drawings - even advertisements. I sold it for 0d (that's 0p in new money!), so never got rich. My magazine even ran competitions that my family entered. Best entrants won 'a people scene' or 'a page of people' drawn by Celia. (I loved drawing, too, and people were my favourite subject.) Now I am a professional writer and I still love being creative. There's nothing better than baking a cake, planting seeds, painting a picture or writing a poem. Being creative is like breathing: essential to a healthy, happy life.

Writing poetry is my favourite creative occupation. And I enjoy reading others' poems, too. Some of my favourite poets when I was a child were Walter de la Mare, Robert Louis Stevenson and Charles Causley. Once somebody, who had read lots of my poems, asked me if I liked de la Mare and Causley. "Yes, very much," I admitted, "but how did you know?" "It shows in your writing," he said. I was surprised but flattered that my writing had been influenced by the work of such masterly poets. That's why I think it is important, if you are serious about writing as a career, that you read lots, too. It doesn't mean that you will set out to copy others' styles or ideas, but their lyrical qualities, rhythms and style may rub off on you, without your knowing it, and improve your own writing. Eventually, you will develop your own confident voice. I wonder if anyone will read your work and recognise your influences?


  1. I think that some of the "classic" poets do sound a bit dated and old-fashioned these days. But the exception, for me, is A.A.Milne. Although written for younger children I think you can enjoy them at any age. Watch out for "When We Were Very Young" and "Now We Are Six." They have such lovely rhythms, which makes them great to read aloud.

  2. I still enjoy Walter Delamare's poems because the sound so lovely and the 'cautionary tales' of Hilaire Belloc. Have a go at putting on a snooty voice and reading them out loud. Enjoy.

  3. Oh, yes, Jan: I like putting on voices and reading poems aloud. Another good one to read aloud in a snooty voice is Charles Causley's Colonel Fazackerley.

  4. For a short while way back I was afraid that I might be unable to write anything original if I read the work of other poets. Since then I've changed my mind. Reading the work of others I've found to be a great source of ideas and education in technique and above all often a great pleasure.