I see writing as an organic process, where every poem has its own voice and doesn’t necessarily end up being what you intended it to be.
What do I write with? Most people are surprised to know that I write with a simple and humble black Bic pen! This pen is the most undervalued, unappreciated and underestimated biro I know. Get me a pack of 50 of these as a present any day 🙂
How do most of my poems begin? Well, as with most poets I know, they happen anywhere but the desk that seats a blank page. I hardly ever write at my desk but I do need it when I’m writing up my final neat draft in my best handwriting. My mind is pretty much in writer mode all the time, without me realising it. Lines come out of conversations, interactions or general observations. It could be the colour of someone’s hair, the way they speak, or a particular mannerism. It could be the way a man is holding his wife’s or girlfriend’s hand. I may overhear a conversation or an argument. Even at dinner parties I watch how people interact and zoom in on them. I just love watching people, their eccentricities and uniqueness .
When I hear a line in my head, if possible I type it straight into my phone or scribble it into my notebook. Later I flesh it out on paper but at this stage it still doesn’t look like a poem, more a chunk of prose full of sentences sitting together randomly and clumsily with an underlying seed of a meaning or depth. After a few more drafts on paper when it starts to feel exhausted from editing it’ll end up in one of my notebooks and then finally typed into my laptop.
Editing – how do I know when a poem is ‘finished’? I don’t think it ever does finish to be honest, because I’ve had work accepted and published and even then I’m looking at it thinking I wish I had changed that / added / deleted something. There does, however, come a point when the work is shared for the first time and another set of eyes cast upon it have helped you to see what you couldn’t before. Feedback can be very helpful in terms of ‘completing’ the poem / tidying it up.
However I don’t always walk away from workshops embracing an opinion. I’ll reflect on it and then decide. I have sometimes ignored all comments and still had the poem accepted. In fact, my poem in The Poetry Review was a very early draft that came from deep emotional pain and I let it be, just as it came out.
Journals – these work for me. I always keep a notebook with me on holiday. It documents the things that can easily escape the mind. I also keep a dream diary because I’m a vivid dreamer and dreams make good poems 🙂
Writer’s block – for me, walking and solitary quiet time are the two things that keep my creative juices flowing. Walking is meditative, akin to prayer in some ways. It is energising for the mind, filters the clutter from our minds that every day brings. We don’t realise how much clutter we absorb subconsciously: we don’t need all of it. In fact, we need very little. Similarly, I can’t even think, let alone write, in an untidy and cluttered space. Music, just music without lyrics, also helps me to think clearly and contextualise words and lines in my head before they reach the blank paper
The Magic Hour – that moment when you wake up with a line in your head and you are compelled to write it down. Luckily, this happens more to some than others and I call it The Magic Hour. Sometimes I do wake up and reach for my phone to add a bit more to a pending poem or open a new page for a fresh new line buzzing in my head. These lines are often pure sparkling little gems which I cherish…and I have no idea where they come from. Maybe heaven or some place where the soul travels to at night…