Yesterday I went to a poetry workshop as part of The Sydney Writers’ Festival. It was a great workshop, run by David Brooks, and has really got me thinking about poetry again. I’ve added a new page to this blog with some of my poems on it. Hope you like them.
One of the comments David made reminded me of what I love about poetry – poetry opens your eyes and connects you with something deep inside you. Another workshop participant added that for the moments it takes to read the poem the poet and the reader occupy the same space. Probably more than prose, poetry has the capacity to connect us – to ourselves and to each other and to the universe.
One of the other issues we discussed was the need to really let go when you are writing a poem, to be brave enough to put yourself out there and tell it like it is. Or in the words of poet Galway Kinnell: If you really want to make the fire burn you have to throw yourself in. That’s a hard thing to do of course but if you want your poems to reflect the way you truly see the world, and if you want them to resonate with honesty you need to open yourself up and let the words out without trying to pretty them up or hide the raw emotion behind them. This process might take a while – David talked about how one poem in his collection Urban Elegies took eight years to perfect. But the results are well worth it. And they will be for you too if you give yourself the time and the space.
The other essential ingredient in writing poetry is reading as much poetry as you can. Read the older classic poets but read contemporary poets too. The more you read the more you will absorb of the way words work together, the way images come to life when they’re well constructed and the way a good poem has a music all of its own that makes you want to read it over and over again.
As I said in my first post, Les Murray was one of the first poets who wrote poems that I connected with on a deep level. Others were Robert Frost, Kenneth Slessor, Judith Wright and the Romantics. Lately I’ve been reading Mary Oliver and Billy Collins, and absolutely loving their poems.
Who are the poets you’ve connected with over your lifetime?
What poems have you read that have inspired you to read and write more?