“All poems are journeys without a known destination, but none more so than those which derive from an inspirational moment.”
There are no rules. No self-help guides and no course which can tell you definitively the way. Each poet must find their own method, or lack of one.
For me, different kinds of poems generally have different origins.
If I write a haiku it will often be when I’m out walking, responding spontaneously to the area where I live and its changing seasons; sometimes I’ll write directly onto my phone, which is unusual as I love using a pen to chisel and chip away drafts of a poem. I keep to the 5-7-5 form which is vital to breath and rhythm.
Like any other poem, haiku can fall flat from being too obvious, or seem cluttered by cleverness. Here’s one about a woodland near my home –
‘Air full of bluebells,
Scent rings a humble welcome:
Dive in colour-pools.’
A satirical poem is born out of anger but tempered by catching a voice, often taking the viewpoint of someone in order to mock them and therefore exaggerating their opinions. When Nigel Farage came to my home town of Merthyr recently it was appalling the way he assumed support for his bigotry. When he was interviewed on tv about what he’d do for the town and gave replies which perfectly illustrated his ignorance, I knew straight away how to expose the ‘Beloved Nigel’.
When I write in Merthyr dialect , however, it normally comes from a conversation I’ve overheard down town or on the bus, or from characters and situations which stand out starkly. One poem called ‘Steve the Bus’ is about a person who spends his days travelling around using his bus pass and is based on a real character.
However, in this persona poem I embellish his story, showing how he’s recently lost his wife and is thinking what she’d say to him.
Just sometimes, certain phrases or words cry out to be used in a poem and I especially love the way Valleys’ people address the bus-driver and call out – ‘Wagons roll, drive!’ to start a crazy last bus home, full of drunken characters.
All poems are journeys without a known destination, but none more so than those which derive from an inspirational moment.
I love the Zen Buddhist way of seeing a mountain every day but then suddenly not just seeing its surface, but realising it fully.
What Zen would call ‘enlightenment’ could have many words such as ‘sbardun’ (spark), or simply a confluence of many streams of thought.
I see a shape and it’s like a sketch of a sculpture in my head. It is akin to fiction where the characters and storyline take on lives of their own and lead you into places you hadn’t thought of going.
So too with a poem: imagery and sound can take you to another land, one without a name; somewhere close to daily reality, yet also far away.
But afterwards you return, again and again, to alter the shape so it will fit an idea of perfection (which it may never attain).
An art beyond abstraction, posing not answering questions.