We’re two thirds of the way there. Just ten more days to go. Having got this far, you deserve a bit of TLC. So here’s a mindful exercise from Simon Coppock to help you find today’s new poem.
Attentive walk prompt
Take a walk. If you’re housebound, take to your comfiest chair… by a window or, failing that, choose a tactile object – a spoon, a chipped mug, an ornament someone gave you years before – it’s really the mind we’re going to get walking.
But this bit is important: you must have with your attentiveness. And it must be your attentiveness set loose – we’re not hunting for poems like they’re prey, we’re going to open ourselves to a poem occurring to us.
Your walk might just be round the block. Your object just be a paperclip somebody dropped. It’s the mind we’re going to get walking.
One day – I know the day, because I wrote it down: Friday 15 February 2002 – one day I went for a walk. I felt fresh and new and the world was opening up around me and I said: “It’s spring! At last – today it’s spring!” And some words came into my brain, and I liked them, and new words followed, and words jumped ahead and words jumped behind, and that whole mess of words had a kind of shape to them.
When I got home, I wrote them down, fiddled with them a bit until I saw they were OK together: fresh, spontaneous, catching just a bit of the feeling of that day.
And this is that poem. It’s simple, like a chipped mug or opening your front door for a walk.
The First Full Day of Spring
I’d been seeing them
they were scattered
on black earth
across the Green
in Arbour Square
throw these windows up
it was cold
and the sun came
Did you like it?
The following year, on the first full day of spring, I wrote another poem. And another – so that, 20 years later, I find myself still writing what I learnt to call ‘process poetry’.
Process poetry is a kind of writing focused on the way a poem is written and why it is written as much as on the final poem: a poem written while walking; a poem describing each brick of next door’s house, a transcription of birdsong each dawn.
Now – we’ve not come together to write a process poem today, though you might in time – it’s a fun thing to do. To be honest, we’re probably not going to write a spring poem, unless the weather just now is being particularly kind.
What we’re going to do is be kind to ourselves, whatever the weather.
We’re going to walk our minds like a dog on a leash, let words gather, let them form and re-form, then set them down on the page. Without judgement, with whatever poetic skill we possess.
And – boom! – we’ll then have both a poem and a record of… well, as Auden wrote for W.B. Yeats, a record of “a day when one did something slightly unusual.”.
Simon Coppock’s poetry has been published in Poetry Review, 580 Split, Inverse and Square One. He was runner-up in the Muriel Winter and Basingstoke Writers competitions, and has written brief reviews for the TLS and longer ones for Poetry Review. His current projects include mythopoetic accounts of foxes in Stepney Green, toads in Epping Forest and CCTV in Bounds Green, and a process poetry sequence called ‘The First Full Day of Spring’ that is now in its third decade.
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