February’s poet, Giles L. Turnbull, shares his approach to writing poetry
‘Poems themselves like to have a little time for their words to get to know each other — gossip and squabble, fall out and flirt.’
- Pay Attention
I used to love catching sight of things happening in the peripheries of my vision. A person precariously swaying towards the traffic on a busy street, as if being propelled from behind by an unseen force, or a small mouse scurrying alongside the rails as an Underground train pulled into Blackfriars station could easily find their way into a poem. Now that I’ve been blind for nine years I try to pay attention to ideas triggered by my other senses. I get more inspired by news from the peripheries rather than the headlines.
- Be Sensible
Thirty years of sighted life means I have many visual images stored in my brain. I remember what different colours look like and I can still imagine buildings that I’ve never before seen if I can find a description of the architectural style or the colours and material of the bricks and how the roof is tiled. When I look back over old poems I realise that other senses took a back seat compared to visual images. Nowadays I always take a step back from any poem I am writing and make sure that other senses are not overlooked — I want to let the reader smell the smoking jacket hanging on the banister or hear the sofa springs creak as a person plonks his derriere down, not just what colours the jacket and sofa are.
I generally find that I write better poems when I remember to breathe. I’m a firm believer that a poem also needs to have space to breathe. I like to let the poem sit and simmer for a few days giving it chance for its flavours to develop. When you make a cup of tea in a teapot you let your tea brew, and if you’re barbecuing steak you may well let it rest in a marinade to tenderise and let the flavours infuse before cooking. When I finish a draft of a poem I will leave it for a couple of days before coming back to it with rested eyes. Poems themselves like to have a little time for their words to get to know each other — gossip and squabble, fall out and flirt. I like to let the words have that breathing space to loosen up before coming back to me with their own ideas.
Giles L. Turnbull is a blind poet. He spent the first half of his life in North Yorkshire before moving to South Wales to study chemistry at Swansea University. He has lived in South Wales ever since, apart from a 5-year sojourn Stateside and two years in London. His debut pamphlet, Dressing Up, is published by Cinnamon Press.
Giles’s article ‘Embracing the Visual’ – a focus on poetry and disability can be found in Poetry Wales Summer issue 2016, 52.1