Finding your way into a poem

It’s been really helpful to read these posts by poets writing about how they find their way into poems:  Writing” Towards Writing by Pam Thompson and fearless creating by Julie Mellor.  As well as containing useful and practical advice, the posts are a comforting reminder that I’m not alone in finding writing hard going at times.  I have a poem that’s been kicking around for months.  It’s there because I realised that another poem I was writing was really two poems.  So I managed to finish poem one but had these scraps of ideas, lines and words for the second poem.  I suppose it’s something like knitting a jumper and finding there’s some good wool left over that it would be a shame to waste.  Or realising you bought too much expensive wool and that it would be plain wrong to leave it lying around going to ruin.  Do you understand the kind of nagging feeling I’m left with?  All January it’s been going on and January hasn’t been the best of months to begin with!

Anyway, Pam and Julie’s posts have been helpful.  They reminded me of a very good chapter Judith: The Making of a Poem by Vicki Feaver which is in The Creative Writing Coursebook, Edited by Julia Bell and Paul Magrs from the University of East Anglia (published by MacMillan).

Vicki Feaver writes about her poem ‘Judith’, including earlier drafts of the poem, extracts from her diary at the time she wrote it, the research she did, her thought process, and how the drafts came about and changed.  It’s a fascinating read.  One of the techniques she uses is to write in prose what the poem is about or what she is trying to do.  It might sound a laborious, clunky method but it’s one I found useful.  Writing about the poem in my diary is another technique that helps – like Vicki Feaver, I use my diary as a confidante, a good listener who takes on board all the anxieties and troubles of the poem.

It made me feel very despondent when I couldn’t get to grips with my poem but this week a reasonably acceptable draft has emerged.  It might not be quite finished but I feel that I’ve worked my way out of a murky few months.  That’s uplifting.  And it’s almost February.  Look at these cheerful daffodils my friend Kathy sent to me this week!


10 thoughts on “Finding your way into a poem”

  1. Great literary note, Josephine. Another strategy I picked up at a workshop given by Bruce Smith, was to compose a poem as a departure or jumping off point from the poem you are trying to write. That is, once you’ve completed your first draft, actually begin the poem after the last line of your draft. This has the opportunity of introducing all kinds surprises not contemplated as a first order of business. Possibly lending greater depth also. Have I said this to you before, or am I just having a deja vu?

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