“I wasn’t prepared for all the time that writing involves […] and the obsession that has risen within me. But I think it was what I was made to do.”
I’m often identified as a Welsh poet (something which I’m always slow to contradict) but as usual, the truth is more complicated than that.
With a foot either side of the border, I feel that the English and Welsh parts of me work with and against each other; hopefully this gives me a certain hybrid vigour when it comes to poetry!
That is definitely one inspiration; where do I belong and how can I use poetry to work that out?
I’m a late starter, not touching poetry for thirty years until my late forties-I simply led a different type of life. Does that inspire me? Yes, I’m still riding that “my God, I seem to be able to do this” adrenaline, though perhaps that should be stored under Motivation or possibly revenge!
So, now for some actual explanation as to what encourages me to place fingers upon the keyboard.
What am I engaged with if not obsessed with today, this week, since before I could remember? Rich pickings can be had here, but firstly:
Do I have something to say and, if so, is it worth saying?
If I feel it is and that others may gain something from reading about it, I start to write freely.
This is probably less free as it used to be. The editing part of my head now has a strong presence; the days of being happy to get to the bottom of the foolscap and hoping it doesn’t suck too hard are over.
As I write I’m sensing a rhythm; this might be the speech patterns of iambic pentameter or the penultimate syllable stress of Welsh words. I’m conversational and rarely formal and even more rarely experimental.
I’m on the lookout for the unexpected, a little bit of daring to trip myself up and then regain balance and hopefully entertain myself the reader. I think a poem ought to question its own motives.
I like the voice of the poems to be candid, to share a generosity of emotion undercut by self-effacement; wide open yet ironic; occasionally journalistic but always having an opinion. I’m happy to risk being sentimental. I often use parentheses; I see these as asides to the reader and sometimes they break “the fourth wall”.
Then there’s the editing, which is all done on computer thus leaving no trace. I’m not one for putting poems away in a warm drawer to work and rise like dough; I don’t trust myself to be able to pick up the momentum and I have a fear of over-working poems. But I won’t sign off a poem unless I’m completely satisfied with it and it must have a strong ending (they rarely drift away to silence….) And editing must be ruthless; good lines or phrases can always be the starter for another poem.
Thus flows a poem (I live next to a river, it must be having some form of effect…) and having let the ink dry on the paper for a max of twenty four hours, it’s printed and filed and possibly sent out when I might find I’m not completely satisfied after all and make a few adjustments!
I find I’ve said little about subject. Well, like many poets I have a broad interest in and knowledge of, many subjects, though being lightly educated that knowledge tends to be stretched a bit thin! I don’t mind being prompted and like to be set a task, and I’m happy to take most subjects for a spin to see what they’re made of. I’m attracted to a taboo…
I guess it’s about linkages, so that a poem about a bird may sit upon an opinion about politics and be guided by my mood after the Wales rugby result the day before, all working for and against each other until a train of thought can be followed and some fluency across the keys emerges.
Nature inspires and there’s a whole lot of that in the Brecon Beacons. The passing of time and its effects, recurs as I edge towards sixty, as does religion, moments in history, as well as my early years. I like a theme and a run of poems and all of my pamphlets and collection have had one. That may be a weakness in a collection but is certainly a strength in a pamphlet. Would I have started writing poetry if I had known what I know now? I wasn’t prepared for all the time that writing involves and the isolation required and the obsession that has risen within me. But I think it was what I was made to do. I finally had the motive and confidence to act upon that. It’s like I dared myself to leap across a chasm and the jump and the landing wasn’t quite as hard as I expected!