Author photo by artist, Walter Bakowski

Monday, November 16, 2009

What writing poetry requires

It requires regular (preferably weekly) practice. Facing the blank page regularly. What to leave behind? Negative or excusing inner voices saying, repeating “I can’t write today”, “I’ve no ideas”, I’ve got a backlog of other things to do”.

The poet is threatened by time, the telephone, the internet inbox, the lure of sunshine and walking outside away from bullring of the blank page.

The blank page is daunting but not writing induces guilt, despondency, erosion of our compass and rudder.

Facing the blank page is where we learn…and what is knowledge? –an attempt to pierce fog, murk, swamp, darkness, to reveal, to illuminate and by doing so we set an example.

The poets we admire, they have written their poems. Look at their poems, the choice and order of their words, but the narrator in your poems should be you, or one of your selves that has key, amusing or thought-provoking things to show or convey.

Writing a poem involves focus and calm simultaneously, even if the subject matter may be difficult and costly.

Writing poetry involves control and sometimes letting go of the steering wheel .

Writing poetry involves gathering what people say, how they look, what they do or refrain from doing.

Writing poetry involves noticing the shape and veins on a leaf, what the sea, night-time, and waking today, holds and means.

Writing poetry involves sifting, selecting, deciding which paints and brushstrokes to try,

which to retain.

Writing poetry involves thinking about people and life, thinking about important questions.

Reading and writing go together. Reading contemporary poetry, history, crime fiction and biographies, have given and continue to give me nourishment. Images, facts, pictures, characters, personalities from this pleasurable reading have given me many seeds for poems.

Much writing is a mix of personal/historical fact and the imagination. Both careful and vigorous mixing of fact and imagination has given and continues to give us engaging pieces of writing.

Literature survives due to our writers utilizing image and story. To ignore image and story is to have a hulk of words without windows, an engine or a colourful driver.

Tell the reader, the listener, the truth of your life, how you have perceived yourself, those around you, your neighbourhood and country, this spinning and phenomenal earth.

Writing involves courage, crossing the tundra of the blank page, but you can turn that blank page into a dancehall, a boudoir, the Amazon river, a mirror.

Writing is about the reality of putting words on paper or on a computer screen. I’ve written this today. Now I can move on to the next piece of writing, my next appointment with putting one word foot in front of the other, something that toddlers, pilgrims, explorers and sages do.


  1. I enjoyed this. In particular you get across how dichotomous life as a poet can be, being in control and yet letting go at the same time. No wonder we're all half-crazed - we don't know if we're coming or going and we're trying to do both at the same time.

  2. Dear Jim,
    I think the danger is letting go completely, to drop the chisel and hammer and not sculpt a piece of writing, a poem. Reckon the best poems appear seamless, the trial and error and tinkering behind the scenes, have been swept away from the stage of the poem.
    When facing the blank page, I reckon the poet needs to refrain from thinking, now I'm going to write a Poem, that is, making the process into A BIG DEAL. Balance remains the operative word here. Alert but drifting/grazing too. Ambling with your thoughts on a long leash in the park of your skull. I still finding reading the book of others, gives me seeds for poems. Plan to read a Thelonious Monk biography soon.
    Every good wish,
    Peter Bakowski

  3. "I reckon the poet needs to refrain from thinking, now I'm going to write a Poem, that is making the process into A BIG DEAL"

    I like that. I think that's going to be helpful. Thanks, Peter.

  4. Dear Adam,
    Also when facing the blank page, being non-anxious is crucial - not anxious about time, not anxious about one's capabilities.
    Remind yourself that you've written poems before, that you've had poems accepted for publication. A key to non-anxiousness is to face the blank page regularly - weekly is the way to go.
    Every good wish,