Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Poets Who Infuenced Me

Roger Stevens

In the 1960s, when I was a teenager at school, I wrote lots of poetry. I found some of it recently in a big box file in the attic. It wasn’t very good. But, and I didn’t know this back then of course, it was the start of my poetry writing career.
Probably the most popular poets in Britain in those days were three men from Liverpool. They were Brian Patten, Adrian Henri and Roger McGough and they published a book in 1967 called The Mersey Sound. They were big favourites of mine. And Roger McGough still is. He writes poems both for children and grown-ups and they are all fantastic.
The reason that these poets influenced me and my writing so much was that they wrote about everyday things and happenings. Wordsworth was wonderful, wandering around the Lake District admiring the daffodils and Keats was cool, gazing at an item of Greek pottery and contemplating the passing of time and the fragility of life, but really I was more interested in finding a girlfriend and going to the cinema.
The Mersey poems didn’t look like the ones we to read at school either. For one thing words were often joined to other words for effect, as in  shockedandsurprised or knockeruppered. They did write about serious things – Sad Aunt Madge or the futility of war – but they wrote silly poems and funny poems as well. They certainly seemed to be enjoying life more than either Wordsworth or Keats.
They made me realise that poetry could be fun. And that you could write a poem about absolutely anything. Football, a bag of chips… even about the pen you were holding to write the poem.
So here’s a challenge. Think of the most unlikely subject for a poem that you can – and then write a poem about it. If you like what you’ve written, send it to the Poetry Zone so that we can all read it.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Plumbing for Blocked Brains

Sue Hardy-Dawson

People often ask me do I ever get writer's block? Writer's block is something that happens to most writers at one time or another, even very famous ones. It means that however hard you try you just can't think of anything to write. But I can honestly say that I don’t suffer from it and I think that's because I don’t worry about what I write until after I’ve written it.

That might sound funny or even very silly, but I honestly believe that worrying is the reason most people freeze up. You see there’s so much to worry about. Is it good? What should I write? What will it be - a poem, a story...

Then there’s spelling to worry about. And punctuation. And forming legible letter shapes if writing doesn’t come easily to you (and it certainly doesn’t for me.) So once you’ve crammed your brain with all that - either you will write rubbish or you won’t dare write at all. So I don’t give any of it a thought.

Do I mean that everything I write is utterly brilliant and all without thinking? No, of course not and anyway half the fun is rediscovering something in all those scrawls and working on it until it becomes the finished poem. That’s the best bit I think, redrafting and shaping and improving.

So there you are. Don't worry about it. Just write. Anything! You can do the worrying later.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Ten Random Facts about Celia Warren

Celia’s first poem (aged 7):
Lie low, lie low,
Here's Robin with his bow
Shooting at a target fine
Underneath a tree of pine.
Celia says: "I'd never use awkward word-order to force rhymes like that now, but I do use repetition. Oh, yes! - I do use repetition."
Favourite tinned soup: Asparagus
Favourite poem: The Donkey by G K Chesterton
Favourite insect: Bee
Favourite poets: Ben Jonson, Wendy Cope, Charles Causley, Walter de la Mare and Alison Brackenbury
Favourite age (between 17 and 19): 18
Favourite quotation:
A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent
- William Blake
Favourite comedian: Bill Bailey
Did you know that: Celia has written over 600 limericks? They form part of an internationally written dictionary that aims to define every word in the English language by way of a limerick.
Celia Says:
I still have to stop and think before I say the word 'dressing-down' - doh! - I mean 'dressing-gown'!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Kick Start

Jan Dean

I hate grey weather. It makes me miserable. Sometimes I wonder if the weather has seeped inside my head and filled me up with fog… and when I feel like this I find it hard to write. So I have to kick-start the process. These are some of the things I do. You could try them too.

• Look out of a window and write down the first three or four things you notice, then go to another window and do the same. (You can do this for every window in the house if you like.)
• Say the words out loud to hear if there are any interesting sound patterns going on in the lists.
• Visualise the things in the list to see if there are any striking colours or pictures.
• Write six or seven opening lines based on the list. (You don’t have to use everything and you can mix the lists up. Or you can write one verse about your room and one about a better/worse room.)
• Work up the best four into draft poems - be sure to weave your mood and any changes of feeling into the drafts. Remember that once you start writing you don’t have to stick to the ‘truth’ of what you saw. Making the words work is what counts.

I did this one from the list of stuff from my window. It might be finished. I won’t know for sure until I’ve put it away for a few weeks and then come back and re-read it.

Wren in the hedge. Hopping
like a brown ball. Stopping
for a second on the red brick wall.
I wish I had just an ounce
of your bounce…

Slug on the step. Sliding
smooth as oil. Gliding
by milk bottles then back to black soil.
Writing your route in slime
while I write mine in rhyme.

I did see a bird in the hedge – but it wasn’t a wren. And I did see a slug – but it wasn’t on the step. I changed what I saw to improve the sounds and rhythms in the poem. (My actual list was: Blue tit in hedge bouncing on branch. Bright blue car in road. Slug on ivy root. Recycling bag on gate.)

I’ve got a couple of other drafts to work on too – one about how sinister ivy is – the way it creeps and clings and takes over; and one about matching your day to the first thing you see when you open the curtains that might begin like this:

‘Today is a tin can day
a clattering day
a rolling away day

Today I am going to bang about
slam doors
howl under beds
and throw stuff….’

Or it might not. I’ll have to see how it goes.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New Year Resolutions

We’d like to wish all our followers a Happy New Year. Let’s hope that in 2011 you will all write lots and lots of wonderful poems. Have you made any New Year resolutions? Here are a few of ours.

1 Write something in your note book everyday without fail.
2 Always have a book of poems by your bed in 2011.
3 Read a poem every day.
4 Seek out some new poets. Read a new poet every week.
5 Take a photo every day and use it as a focus for a poem.
6 Start a poetry magazine with your sister, brother or best friend.
7 Give friends and family a book of poems for their birthday.
8 Enter lots of poetry competitions! (There’s one on this blog. If you haven’t entered it yet – please do!)
9 Visit The Secret Lives of Poets every week.
10 Teach the cat to type properly. (Sue suggested that one. But she does have a very clever cat!)