Thursday, February 3, 2011
Views from my writing desk. No.1
When I lived in London in the 1980's I set myself the apprenticeship challenge of trying to write a poem every Monday, my day off, from my then job of working in a record exporting warehouse.
As my New Year's resolution for 2011 I've reset myself the challenge of trying to write a poem every Monday.
Happily, last month I wrote a four page autobiographical poem, which I'm saving up to enter in a worthwhile poetry competition and also a two and a half page portrait poem about a ficticious woman writer, after having recently read a biography of Enid Blyton.
This week I wrote a poem about a teenage girl with a semi-hoodlum boyfriend but 99% I'm going to delete the poem as the poem is too much, to my mind, "telling not showing". I'm a bit blue about the teenage girl poem not making the grade but I also like being ruthless. I remind myself that the more poems I write the more I can delete. Keep the cream I say. The bottom line is that if a poem fatigues you, seems a bit ho hum, goes over old ground, it's going to arguably be the same for the reader out there.
Be ruthless/hardcore with your own writing.
If in doubt, I encourage you to submit the undecided yay or nay poem to a magazine or three.
If all three lit magazines reject the poem, realize they are telling you that the poem is no go, a yawner, a slag heap of words that no-one needs or can use.
Currently I find myself reading only contemporary women fiction writers. I particularly find myself gravitating to their novels set during the Second World War. I remain particularly interested in the view through civilian eyes.
Reading has given me and continues to give me poems. My own creative focus remains on writing the character-driven portrait poem. To create a believable and intriguing character in a poem continues to challenge, occupy and direct my weekly writing day.
The character-driven poem allows the poet to reveal a voice, a personal history, perspectives and opinions different to their own. The character-driven poem allows a poet to get away from the I I I me me me poem. The character-driven poem encourages you to mine your imagination (theoretically inexhaustible) rather than mine your life experience (possibly over-mined).
Thus I've started on my next book of portrait poems which has a secret title. If I have a good 2011 writing-wise, I may finish writing the book of portrait poems by late 2012. Meanwhile when you are writing a poem, focus on that one poem in front of you. I understand this principle applies to world class professional tennis players. They focus on the one ball in front of them now and don't spend one speck of mental energy on future speculation, the next game.