Over the last five decades I have written many hundreds of poems. Several dozen of these have been performed in public or published in magazines and quite a few have been self-published here on this blog.
How do I go about writing my poetry?
Usually the idea for a poem comes to me in the form of either a striking image, a special word or phrase or even a whole line. I usually carry a notebook with me (so I can record the birds I see for writing about on my birding blog). This notebook will often contain a few notes on the image seen or the words that came to me. Sometimes the whole poem is scribbled out in this notebook. When I do not have a notebook handy (a rare occurrence) I will grab any convenient piece of paper and jot down a few words or ideas. This becomes the first draft of the poem.
Sometimes that is where the idea stops.
During the second and subsequent drafts I may use the same notebook or piece of paper or even start typing it on to my computer. Here it may go through many drafts before the finished poem is ready for the world. Many never reach this far and lie languishing in notebooks or on misplaced bits of paper or whatever; they may never be reworked and are essentially still-born.
This year, at the suggestion of my lecturer in poetry, I have changed my approach. I have purchased an A5 size spiral notebook that I carry with me everywhere, waiting for inspiration. Here I jot down ideas and drafts of poems, interesting images I come across and a record of any phrase, lines or sentences I may want to rework into a poem sometime. I also work through the editing process of each poem in this book. It is easy and convenient to go back through this notebook and see how each poem has changed and developed.
It is only in the final draft that I type up the poem on my computer. This is in complete contrast with the method I use when writing stories and novels, as I explained yesterday. Interestingly, most of my poetry these days is written in pencil. I find the tactile approach works best for me and a pencil feels much better than a ball point pen.
I’d like to hear from my readers how you go about writing poetry. Leave your comments below.