Thursday, 11 February 2010

Back to the Source

The advice of my poetry lecturer this term has been to go back to the place where a poem comes from and see what else you find.

Wise words but not as easy as one might think. I think that largely I have avoided doing this in my writing practice. I tend to write something and then go back and edit it several times, shaping it what I hope is a finely honed poem.

But is rare that I actually add much more to the original words. This is partly through fear of spoiling it and partly through a kind of preciousness about what I have written and I realise now that this is both short-sighted and a little arrogant. I am not doing my work any favours and if I want to take that leap sideways which George Szirtes spoke of last term I need to be able to go back and re access the source of my ideas.

I tried this earlier this week in a poem I was writing about a house fire. I am not happy with the poem itself because I feel it is too much of a narrative and I shy away from writing that kind of poem generally, mainly because the long narrative poem is not a form that I excel at. But hey I am on a poetry MA and it is a good time to be trying my hand at taking risks and writing different styles and on different subjects - trying not to just write in the usual ways about the usual subjects. Anyway to get back to the point I wrote quite a bit of the poem in a a kind of free writing exercise kind of way and then instead of coming back to it later and simply typing it up and trying to lick it into shape I actually went back into the subject and wrote a whole lot more. I was surprised at how much more was there - it is just a shame that I don't like the poem.

here is a short extract:

I hear the throaty rumble of fire engines along the track,
the shouts of men in braces and helmets as they haul the heavy body
of the hose across the field to the river below the wood.
And now the house begins to creak and groan
like a ship straining at its moorings in a violent storm,
its sad mouth collapses in on itself
while its prematurely clouded eyes cry tears of river water.

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