Read a poem, write a poem by Moira Andrew

Monday, 3 December 2012

Well, it’s not as easy as all that – there’s a lot more to writing a poem, as I know to my cost.  The poet Wes Magee has said, Poetry is two four-letter words – HARD WORK!  But one thing is sure, the more a poet reads, the more successful the subsequent writing becomes. 

It’s true that we poets have a compulsion to write, stimulated often by the most unlikely things – a flower lighting up the border in winter, a scrap of overheard dialogue, an unbidden memory that makes you catch your breath, the smell of cinnamon ”¦ you never know where a poem is lurking.

And then there is the whole therapeutic reason for writing, words really can bring wellbeing.  Poets write of their loss when someone they love has died, exploring loneliness, grief, anger, uncertainty.  Some of our best and most direct work comes as a by-product of deepest grief.  To quote Michael Rosen, A poem is the best way of saying big things in small spaces.

But poets shouldn’t simply write – to develop our skills we need to read – and to read widely.  No use saying, I’ve done all that – I read Wordsworth and Shakespeare at school.  We’ve all been there.  We keep the work of the traditional poets under our belts, often unaware of the debt we owe them.

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