Here are a few questions that you could, or should, ask yourself when considering taking your poetry show on tour.

 

One-person shows

Do you have the material and experience to sustain a full show by yourself?

Have you tried the show out on audiences already? What was their reaction? (This does not mean you have read your poems to a

gathering of friends)

Is the show rehearsed until you know it inside out?

Have you sought advice from someone with experience of putting on similar shows before?

How familiar are you with the technical aspects of the show? (Lighting, staging, costume, props – if necessary)

 

Multi-person shows

Is the show rehearsed until you know it inside out?

Have you tried the show out on audiences already? What was their reaction?

Have you sought advice from someone with experience of putting on similar shows before?

How familiar are you with the technical aspects of the show? (Lighting, staging, costume, props – if necessary)

Have you considered how the number of people in the show will affect the budget?

 

Mutli-media shows

Is the show rehearsed until you know it inside out?

Have you tried the show out on audiences already? What was their reaction?

Have you sought advice from someone with experience of putting on similar shows before?

How familiar are you with the technical aspects of the show - Audio/visual requirements, lighting, staging, props etc -

and is all of this transportable within your proposed budget? Consider that you may need to employ and rehearse your

own technician for each performance, to work with the venue’s technical people.

 


Getting the Gigs

Funding the show

There are funding bodies that will help you with the financial requirements of touring your show.

The first-stop live literature funders are Arts Council England. Their website is www.artscouncil.org.uk, and here you will find all

sorts of advice as well as the application forms to fill in and notes on how to fill in the forms! These forms are daunting, but there is

help and advice available from Arts Council staff.

Remember that the Arts Council will need proof that 10% or more of your funding is from other sources – this can be funding in kind,

fees, share of ticket sales or money from other arts funders; the Arts Council has a link to other arts-funding bodies here:

http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/regions/links_for_category.php?rid=7&cid=10&page=1

 

Selling the show

 

In order get a tour, you will need to convince promoters that your show is worth putting on at their venue or during their festival.

A comprehensive and accurate promotional package is the best way to do this.

The package should include:

1. Clear information on who you are, your CV(s) and a good promotional photo of you.

2. Some samples of your work (live audio or video samples are essential if you are a performance poet).

3. Testimonials from promoters and/or live literature organisers (with contact details, so that the testimonials can be verified) and/or

press cuttings and reviews of your live work.

3. An outline of what the show entails, the show format including technical requirements and brief details of the type of publicity material

that you will be producing to promote the show at each venue.

4. A clear indication of the cost of the show to the promoter/venue, including whether your fee includes accommodation and travel costs.

If you can package the above up in an eye-catching and professional looking format, all the better. Sending a few scraps of hand-written

A4 will not impress!

A website about the show is also useful, giving potential promoters the opportunity to browse sound and video files of the show.

 

Who to approach

 

There are plenty of Literature and Poetry Festivals happening throughout the UK, a comprehensive list of which can be found on the

British Council site at: http://www.britishcouncil.org/arts-literature-literary-festivals.htm

This listing includes the festival dates, a brief outline of what goes on, a weblink for more information and the main contact for the festival.

There are direct links to South West based literature festivals on the directory pages of www.cypruswell.com and

www.poetrycan.co.uk websites.

You will also have to do a lot of digging - using the internet to find venues/theatres willing to consider one-off live literature events.

Many venues in the south west region are listed in the directories of the Literature Southwest and Poetry Can websites.

Send your promotional material to festival organisers about 6 months before their festival starts, as that is the time that they will be

planning their schedule.

Send a hard copy of your promo material through the post and then a couple of week’s later make a follow-up phone call to ensure your

package has been received. (and to remind the organiser that you exist!) It will be worth making contact with festival planners/organisers

and calling them up every now and again if you haven’t heard anything, until you get a clear yes or no to your proposal.

Be diplomatic, though, promoters are human too and may not respond well to badgering or aggression!

Remember that you will probably have to approach at 30 venues/promoters to achieve 10 bookings.

 

Publicity Material

All venues/promoters will expect you to provide publicity material in the form of A3 colour posters and smaller format fliers.

Make sure that you budget for this cost and the cost of mailing them to venues.

Venues/promoters will usually require press release material about the show as well as publicity photos of the performers.


 

Practicalities

 

Budgets

Before you can apply for funding or you decide on how much you are going to charge venues/promoters per performance you need to

have a clear idea of what your total costs of providing the show to each venue are.

You need to have a clear idea about:

  • fees for performers/technicians
  • travel costs
  • accommodation costs
  • marketing and publicity material costs
  • administration costs (the time to organise the tour and the costs of telephones etc.)
  • insurance
  • equipment hire/wear and tear
  • production costs

 

Rehearsing

Your show should be regularly rehearsed so that you know it inside out and back to front and can therefore relax on stage and

do your show justice.

If possible include funding for a director for your show.

You may have a clear idea of how you want things to be, but you cannot watch yourself perform, and a director will be able to guide

you through your rehearsals and spot subtle alterations or make suggestions that would benefit your show.

(Employing a director also gives another artist a bit of work!)

 

 

Shaping the tour

 

It is advisable to organise your dates relatively close together, both geographically and chronologically.

This may not be possible, as you are somewhat at the mercy of the venue and festival promoters; however, there may be room for negotiation.

Having events close chronologically means that your show should keep its freshness, or even improve, as you progress from date to

date and will avoid you having to rehearse between dates.

Geographically, try not to have too great a distance between consecutive shows (e.g. Newcastle one night and Penzance the next)

as the travel will tire you out.

Ideally a tour of, say, 12 venues (the Arts Council required number of shows that constitutes a tour) should be spread over no more

than 3 weeks (21 days).

 

 

Technical stuff

 

Creating a multi-media show can be fun and exciting, however the more platforms you use for presenting your work (film, audio, projections etc),

the more chances there are of things going wrong!

It is imperative that you try and use exactly the same equipment when touring your show as you do when you rehearse your show

before the tour.

This will mean that you will be familiar with the equipment and can use it efficiently and proficiently.

You will probably find, however, that no 2 venues have the same set up regarding equipment such as projectors or sound. It is vital that you

talk to the technical staff at the venues well before your show and explain to them clearly and precisely what equipment you have and how you

are going to use it, and get a clear picture of what equipment they have and how it links with yours.

The technical staff at the venues should be happy to discuss these matters with you well before the show, as it makes their lives easier if they

know what you are bringing along and what you need.

It is also extremely important to arrange a decent ‘get-in’ time for each event. This is the period before the show during which you set up your

stage, props and equipment. You need to have a clear idea of how long you will need for get in and then add half an hour to an hour for

unexpected hitches, changing and pre-show relaxing/nerves.

For a technically complex show, you should consider travelling with your own, rehearsed technician to work with the local technical staff.

 

Travel

 

Bear in mind that you will probably not only be conveying yourself/selves to each venue, but also your overnight clothes, any equipment that

you need for the show and any product (CD’s or books) that you may want to sell.

It is probably advisable to have a vehicle of your own for the tour (as opposed to relying on public transport) so either using your own vehicle

of hiring one would seem to be the best options. Remember to include car hire, petrol and wear and tear on the vehicle costs in your budget.

 

Accommodation

Some festivals and organisers will provide accommodation as part of the package they offer you; sometimes you will have to book into B&B’s

or hotels near the theatres and sometimes you will be sleeping in spare rooms provided by poet-friendly households.

Booking rooms will add a lot to your budget, so be aware of that; if you are ok with sleeping on floors and in spare beds, then clearly that is

the cheaper option and should be considered. The cost saved by using friends’ beds could perhaps be included as ‘in-kind’ payment in your

budget as part of the 10% other funding you need to raise if applying for arts council funds.

  
Insurance

Many venues/promoters will require you to have insurance cover for public liability, and employer’s liability. In addition it is probably wise to

have cover for equipment and property that you will taking to the venues. There are only a few specialist insurance companies that offer

policies for travelling performance shows. We used NODA Insurance, but there are others. The cost of this insurance is significant and

should be budgeted for.

If you are using your own vehicle, you may incur extra motor insurance premium, should you add another driver to the existing policy.

 

Peter Hunter and David Johnson

Can you learn to write poetry in a workshop?

There are many courses, classes and workshops you can attend in order to further your artistic and professional development as a poet.

Colleges and Universities often run a range of different creative writing courses, see Colleges, Universities and Libraries.

Arvon courses are possibly the most highly regarded short courses around (they last five days and are residential). Arvon Foundation

The Poetry School run regular poetry workshops throughout the UK. The Poetry School

The Orchard Foundation run short courses in writing and reflective practice for creativity and professional development. 

Orchard Foundation.

 

Workshops run by experienced, talented, published poets are usually rewarding and worth your time and the admission fee wherever

they take place.

We will publicise poetry courses, classes and workshops in the NEWS section and in the bulletin as and when we hear about them

Can you learn to write poetry in a workshop, in a class, on a course? Opinion is divided but you will certainly meet other writers, find inspiration,

some useful tips, and for those who need them the structure and the deadlines that encourage you to work in a more organised way.

Poetry Society

It is well worth joining the Poetry Society & the Poetry Book Society. Both provide key information to the world of poetry.

The Poetry Society has published a journal and newsletter for almost 100 years. Poetry Review is one of the world's leading

contemporary poetry magazines. Poetry News is packed with features, tips and listings.

Members of the Poetry Society receive four issues per year of Poetry Review and Poetry News.

The Poetry Society aims to advance the study, use and enjoyment of poetry.

It was founded in 1909, it provides support, information and merchandise for specialists and the general public alike.

It has nearly 4,000 members worldwide.

Through events, publications, café, promotions and prizes the Poetry Society aims to create a central position for poetry in the arts

and promotes poets and poetry in Britain today.

Its education work provides development opportunities for poets, teachers, pupils, and emerging writers, creating a central position

for poetry in education through its advocacy and links with national arts and government initiatives.

 

Poetry Book Society

The Poetry Book Society was set up by T S Eliot and friends in 1953 ‘to propagate the art of poetry’, the Poetry Book Society

provides information, reviews and discounts on the best contemporary poetry for an international community of readers.

The Poet Selectors choose the best new poetry collection of the quarter, which is sent to full members as part of their membership.

All members also receive the Bulletin, the quarterly review of new poetry, which contains the Poet Selectors' reviews of the Choice and

Recommendations and the selected poets' comments on their own work.

Awarded by the PBS to the best new collection of poetry each year, the T S Eliot Prize for Poetry is the largest and most prestigious award

of its kind in the UK.

The PBS online poetry bookstore, which sells all the 90,000 poetry titles in print in the UK and a wide range of CDs, including those from

the Poetry Archive, featuring one-hour recordings of over 130 poets reading their own work

They run the Children's Poetry Bookshelf a book club for young poetry lovers aged 7-11, offering the best new children’s poetry books

chosen by our expert Selectors and memberships for parents, schools and libraries. The CPB also runs an annual poetry competition

for 7-11 year-olds,

Full members receive the Choice and Bulletin review each quarter, keeping them up-to-date with the best new poetry.

 

The Poetry Can recommends that at some point you attend a poetry course run by the Arvon Foundation.

Many poets and writers claim that attending an Arvon course has changed their lives.

Others may not quite go that far but will say that the course they have attended has enthused, inspired and given them a

great deal of confidence.

These courses are certainly very well regarded in the poetry world. Your commitment to your own artistic and professional

development as a poet will be taken more seriously by key people in the industry, including some notable publishers,

if you have attended one.

The Arvon Foundation's residential creative writing courses aim to challenge, inspire and transform your writing.

Week long courses (Monday to Friday) are held in four beautiful and historic houses:

 

Totleigh Barton, Dorset

In Devon: Totleigh Barton    

 email: totleighbarton@arvonfoundation.org

 

The Hurst, Shropshire In Shropshire: The Hurst

 

Moniack Mhor, Inverness-shire In Inverness-shire: Moniack Mhor

 

Lumb Bank, Yorkshire In Yorkshire: Lumb Bank

 

 

 

Arvon works with writers of every age and at every stage of their writing lives. Whether you are a beginner or more experienced,

there is a course for you.

Poetry courses (there are also courses relating to other forms of creative writing) usually focus on a particular aspect of poetry.

Each course is run by two professional poets, there is also a guest poets who appears for one day during the week.

There will be a mixture of group work, individual tutorials and readings.

If you are on low or no income, you can apply for a grant to help with your course fee.

You can read testimonies from people who have experienced the Arvon magic,  browse courses, book a place,  discover more about Arvon writing

houses, find out how to apply for a grant, and everything you need to know by logging on to the Arvon Foundation website:

www.arvonfoundation.org

Many poets find having a mentor extremely helpful

There is no single formula for a good poetry mentoring relationship; mentoring styles and activities vary according to need and personality,

it's really whatever works for you and helps you to develop artistically and professionally.

 

We all have different kinds of mentoring relationships throughout our lives.

You don't necessarily need to think of your mentor as a more experienced poet, a kind of tutor and you as a protégé, though such a

relationship can be really helpful. What can also be really helpful is a mutual mentor relationship with someone who is more or less at a

similar stage of development as you.

 

The mutual mentor relationship is a variation on the kind of support you would hope to receive in a poetry group.

It may be a deeper relationship with more focussed attention being shared between the mentors.

The important thing is for the pair to agree how the mentor relationship is going to function. It's especially important to establish how

and when you contact each other, and realistically and practically, how much time you each have to give to the mentor-relationship.

 

An example of how a mentor relationship might work is:

    you meet once a month in a place where you can think, listen and talk without interruption or too much distraction
     you have sent each other a poem before the meeting which you have each had sufficient time enough to read and think about
     your meeting lasts for ninety minutes to two hours during which you spend approximately sixty minutes (thirty minutes each) focussing on
    one poem from each person, and perhaps a further thirty minutes discussing what's happening in your poetry development in general.
    Throughout try to keep the focus on poetry rather than general or personal conversation.
     

It is important for you to build rapport with your mutual mentor. This process takes time; some suggestions for building rapport:

Establish regular times for meeting together.

Make a list of items to be covered during meetings.

Help each other chart progress in areas that need developing.

Introduce each other to sources of information and contacts.

Share success and failure factors from your own poetry development.

 

You should talk about, and set mutual expectations as well as responsibilities for the relationship. Your co-mentor may be a friend, and/or,

it's good if you like each other and get on well but you need the mentor relationship to be professional, objective and rigorous.

It's important to agree:

      Goals and responsibilities

      Ground rules for the mentoring relationship

      Meeting schedule

      Protocol for contacting each other

 

Initially, as with any relationship, there may be a test period and some initial tensions.

Common problems that may arise are:

      Feelings of threat exist regarding the new relationship.

      One or both of you doesn't keep to the terms of the relationship.

      You don't agree on certain issues.

      Either you or your co-mentor consistently fails to put the agreed time/work in.

      There is poor communication.

 

The key to moving beyond these obstacles is open, frank, non-judgmental discussion - and the sooner the better.

The act of writing poetry is usually a fairly solitary activity.

But there are times when it can be very helpful to have the objective opinions of other poets, for example, when you feel a poem

you are working on is close to completion you might want confirmation everything superflous has been cut away, or you might want

to see the impact it has on a group of informed and interested readers, or there might be a particular problem of composition you

want an opinion on, you might simply want the group to confirm your poem is ripe to be sent to a poetry magazine or competition.

 

Learning is a social activity. In thinking together with the group you'll learn much that is useful, and this includes, perhaps especially,

the discussions that focus on the poems written by other members of the group.

 

If you are unable to find an existing Poetry Group (see link to existing poetry groups) you might consider setting up a new group yourself.

You'll need:

     poets – about five to fifteen in number     

     somewhere suitable to meet – your library service or arts centre may be able to help you here, both may also be a useful place to

      advertise your group to potential new members

     a regular time and date to meet appropriate to your needs

    

     The members of the group need to agree the basics of how they want the group to run. These basics need to be re-stated from time to time,

including whenever a new member joins.

These don't have to be extensive, just what your particular group wants and requires, they might include:    

    you are all there to share your work and to give and take criticism that is rigorous, fair, helpful, thoughtful and not malicious

(or ad hominem/ad feminam).      

    an agreed time limit for each person's feedback, perhaps fifteen minutes.

 

Please get in touch if you require any information or advice re. poetry groups, or if you wish to advertise new or existing groups on the

Poetry Can website and monthly bulletin.

 

Link to existing Poetry Groups in South West

 

Remember the main point of a poetry strategy is that it's a process to help you develop your skills as a poet -

being published is only a very good by-product.

 

Warning: Don't get obsessed with wanting to be published.

You know you've lost the plot when getting published becomes more important than writing good poetry.

 

In order to have a book published you need to have fifty to eighty publishable poems to send off to a poetry book publisher –

usually a small poetry press in the first instance.

 

This means of your fifty to eighty poems - you need twenty or so to have been accepted for publication by various reputable poetry magazines,

and/or to have a smaller number placed, or to have received an honorary mention, in reputable poetry competitions

 

This takes time and requires a structured approach and this is where the poetry strategy comes in.

 

Set yourself four deadline dates over the next twelve months. The first in three months time, the scond in six months time,

the third in nine months time, the fourth in 12 months time.

 

Write down the deadline dates in your diary and be determined to stick to them.

 

During the three months up to the next deadline you will: 

  Work on the poems you want to send to poetry magazine publishers 

   Identify suitable poetry magazines to submit to - if you only write non-squirrel related poems about motorbikes then there's no

  use in sending them off to a magazine that only publishes poems about squirrels. 

   Identify at least one poetry competition to enter.

 

        See The Poetry Library Website: www.poetrylibrary.org.uk there you can find contact details for every poetry magazine/competition,

        small press and major poetry book publisher in the UK, you will see that many of these have websites where you can get a feel for what

        they are all about, including their submissions policy.

        The Poetry Library should be one of your favourite websites.

         

        Remember to adhere to the particular submission policy.

         

        Don't send the same poem to more than one magazine or competition at a time.

         

        Keep a portfolio of what you send, to whom you send it, when you send it, what response you recieved.

         

        Don't be afraid to send poems to magazines who have previously rejected you - some editors will take your repeated submissions as

        commitment to their magazine and may look upon you favourably. Dotake on board any criticism you receive from them, though.

        If, however, they beg you not to submit to them again - or threaten legal action if you do - then do please cease submitting to them

        - remember, there's no accounting for taste.

         

        When you have completed fifty to eighty poems that you believe to be of publishable quality, and you have had twenty or so

        of these poems published  in reputable poetry magazines or placed in competitions, then you are ready to approach a poetry

        book publisher, you may be successful with a major publisher but for a first collection you might be better off trying a small press publisher.

         

        Look again at the Poetry Library and look in the list of small presses for one or more you could imagine publishing your collection.

         

        If you are based in the South West of England or your poems are in some way related to the region then you might consider contacting a

        publisher based in this region. South West Publishers.

         

        A publishing strategy should help you to: 

          Work regularly, seriously and to deadline 

          Develop a clearer understanding of the poetry landscape - in terms of what a significant number of poetry magazines, books

           and competitions are all about 

          Gradually build up your publishing portfolio and body of work

          Be able to approach a poetry book published

         

          and most importantly, hopefully, become a better poet.

         You can't write good poetry unless you read good poetry. (see Reading Poetry)

        There are many books about writing poetry, some of them are good, some of them are bad. We recommend some good ones here,

        but the best way to learn about writing poetry is to read poetry.

         

        Write Everyday

        The Muse will appear everyday for you providing you prove you intend to show up too. A musician is expected to practice everyday,

        should less be expected of a poet? Try to write each day, even if it's only a fifteen minute exercise. The results may not always be

        pretty but you'll see the benefits before too long.

        You don't have to work directly on your poems. There are lots of poetry exercises and games you could do.

        Write Poetry and Get It Published by John Hartley Williams and Matthew Sweeney contains many good examples of these.

         

        Response Poems

        One way way of enagaging with a poem is to write a response poem.

        A response poem is written in the same style as an original poem but from a different point of view, for example, from the point of view

        of the poet's imagined younger or older self, or from that of a major or minor character mentioned in the original, or from someone

        intimately connected, or with only the slightest acquantance with the poet.

         

        There is an historical and honourable tradition of writing response poems. A favourite contemporary example is Brendan Kennelly's

        Ragalan Lane written in response to Raglan Road by Patrick Kavanagh

         

        Writing a response poem will enable you to get under the skin of the original poem to better understand its form, techniques and

        subtleties etc.

        It will build up your "poetry muscle memory" and you will be better able to call on the understandings and skills you develop when you

        need them in the future.

        Writing a response poem allows you a springboard leap into the writing of a new poem, it gives you a quick way in to saying something

        important, significant or different that directly or indirectly concerns the themes of the original poem. 

         

        When you have the urge to write but don't want to rely entirely on your own imagination writing a response poem is a useful exercise.

         

        Writing Times

        Identify your best times of day for writing. Manywriters like to write first thing on a morning, before breakfast (though a cup of coffee

        might be allowed), before radio or television and before any daily business or other work, including looking at emails, is undertaken.

        This is supposed to be a particularly creative time because it's the time nearest to sleeping and dreaming and, you haven't yet had to

        deal with all the doings of the day.

        'Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting' Robert Frost

         

        Here are some thoughts on the process of writing a poem.

         

        FIRST, HOW DOES A POEM BEGIN?

        How A Poem Begins

        A poem may begin with a good idea

        or with a keen desire to say something,

        it may begin with one single resonant phrase or line

        or with something you can't quite grasp,

        you know it's there, but it's just out of reach,

        or it might be an inner image dreaming of the written poem

        That's how a poem might begin ...

          

        FINALLY, HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN A POEM IS DONE? 

        A Poem Is Done When

        the poem has become what it was always meant to be 

        the poem is greater than the sum of its parts (form, argument, content, rhythm, cadence, sound, etc)

        the choice, timing and placement of every single word and phrase is right

        you have done justice to the themes you've called up

        when the poem looks seamless

        and when its composition looks like it was no bother at all

        "Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting"  Robert Frost

         

        SOME THOUGHTS ON GETTING FROM START TO FINISH

        How Do You Get From Here To There And Back Again? 

        You have the desire to write something,

         you have an idea for a poem,

        you have a really good line,

        or maybe it's more of a whisper or a wink

         

        You might be thinking:

        what is this poem going to be about,

        what do I want to say?

        What's the poem's argument?

          

        But remember, a poem must be more than just the argument that can be identified within the words of the poem

        or it won't really be a poem at all.

         

        The message is not in the poem, the poem is the message.

        So you don't interpret a poem, you experience it.

         

        A poem is created when its individual elements - form, sound, argument, content, rhythm, cadence, etc - work in concert together...

        the poem itself is greater than the sum of its parts.

          

        What is the experience you want the poem to capture?

        What do you want the reader to experience?

        What kind of thoughts and feelings do you hope to inspire?

        What impact do you want the poem to have?

         

        It might take longer than you think. Resist the urge to rush. 

        It's tempting to believe that poems can be written quickly, after all, how long can it take to write something that's only a few

        lines long? And we've all read good poems that looked simple, like they were no bother to write at all!

        But of course, that only shows how much work went into them.

          

        Poetry is different from prose.

        Bad poems can be written quickly, good poems usually take a little longer. Exceptions to this are rare. 

        Doing justice to the themes of your poem, and this includes been honest, can be both emotionally draining and technically difficult.  

        Ensuring that the choice, timing and placement of every single word and phrase is right, that you've cut away everything

        that shouldn't be there can be more difficult than it sounds. 

        You may have to make correction after correction, set aside draft after draft,

        You may find yourself abandoning the very good idea which inspired the poem in the first place;  

        you may be forced to cut brilliant lines, and more which, fabulous as they are, aren't right or just don't fit.  

         

        Poetry can be very cruel sometimes. 

        It may take three drafts, it may take thirty three drafts. It may take three weeks it may take three months, it may take longer to

        complete a poem. In the end you may not finish it. It may be beyond you at this point in time, you may need to leave it for a while.

        You may decide that afterall, it's going nowhere, you may abandon it to the drawer.

         

        And it's not just the technical challenges

         Because poetry is a more condensed medium than prose or everyday speech, often involving more frequent use of figures of speech

        especially metaphor and simile, poetry is, possibly, the quickest way of connecting to the unconscious for both poet and reader.

        Thoughts, feelings, creative ideas, sudden insights may seem to appear from out of the blue. You may find it's a very different poem

        you end up writing than the one you originally intended.  

        This is the fantastic thing about poetry and one of its greatest strengths. It has the potential to be a particularly fully human form

        of artistic communication.  

        To realise this potential requires a certain attitude to writing the poetry, one of engaging with the poem rather than

        trying to control it. 

        Don't be too committed to your first ideas of what the poem should be, be prepared to be uncertain for awhile. 

        If you are fixed in your opinions you're in danger of shutting the door on the unconscious, on your inspiration.

        But if you accept that it can be extremely difficult to be completly certain about anything, that often how we interpretate experience

        is based on partial understandings, then it makes more sense to try to be increasingly open-minded and unjudgemental.

        And you don't close doors.

         

        It's about engaging with the poem rather than trying to control it. 

        Prepare properly, pay attention, think and feel about your subject, play with it, look, listen, smell, touch and taste it too. Engage with it.

        There are ways of using words and language that are more conducive to an open mind: Avoid the obvious, the cliche, the kind of

        language that shuts down thinking, feeling, and imagining. 

        Don't try to say everything, don't produce descriptions packed with detail, less is more, aim for the original,

        cultivate a light and skillful touch. 

         

        A key-description unlocks the universe 

        If you take your time, pay the right quality and quantity of attention to your subject, what you're seeking to describe will provide the

        key to its own revealing, the right word, image or phrase will come, though it may take time.  

        Understand the difference between trying to say everything and there's nothing more to be said.

          

        Metaphor

        Metaphor is the most important and widespread figure of speech, in which one thing, idea, or action is referred to by a word or expression

        normally denoting another thing, idea, or action, so as to suggest some common quality shared by the two... Definition here

          It's not always possible to state something openly or directly because of varying kinds of censorship; of the need for privacy;

        or because you can't find the language to say what you want, or what you want to say simply cannot be expressed. 

        A metaphor can form a bridge between what cannot be said with what can be said, between the unconscious and the conscious. 

         

        A good metaphor is a thing of joy able to carry with it energy and humour: 

        I give her all my sugar

         she's got such a sweet tooth

        as such it has the power to challenge the ways in which we take the world for granted, allowing us to see things fresh,

        and to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. 

        By using a metaphor in this way you can express something in a sudden flash of starling wings, which, otherwise, could take up

        half a pigeon or more (if a pigeon were a page). 

        The metaphor can be seen as a way of switching off our everday functional thinking, connecting instead to our more open,

        imaginative, empathic and creative forms of thinking and feeling. 

         

        A poem should connect with the reader at a primal level, in its music and energy, in the intense dance of its ideas wrapt and rapt in

        imagery and metaphor, in the way it moves the reader emotionally and in its thrilling use of language.

        And remember, poetry isn't composed only on the page... the sound of the poem is vital – poetry, like music, is made to be heard, to be

        read aloud, and the sound of the words is the music of the poem's dance.

        Every good poem is a dance between thought and feeling to the sound of the music of words.

        A really good poem should

        '... trip the reader head foremost into the boundless'  Robert Frost  

         

         

         

        This section comes from reading key poets writing on poetry and also from conversations about the art and craft of writing poetry held

        with a good many poets, all of whom would be too many to mention but certain individuals must be acknowledged, of those I've read:

        Neil Astley, Joseph Brodsky, Robert Frost, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Kathleen Jamie and Sean O'Brien have been very important here.

         Those whose conversations have been particularly influential here, include: Robyn Bolam, Maura Dooley, Bill Herbert, Brendan Kennelly,

        Dennis O'Driscoll and Jean Sprackland. Special thanks go to Rachael Boast who allowed me to read her excellent PhD dissertation,

        this and subsequent conversations with Rachael helped pull together and clarify a lot of my own thinking on the issues here discussed.

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