Ella Duffy reads a poem from her pamphlet New Hunger. Ella draws on mythology and the natural world in her vivid and powerful poems which she will be discussing on this week’s podcast.
Bio: Ella Duffy’s poetry has appeared in Ambit, the Rialto and the North, among others. Her debut pamphlet, New Hunger, was published by Smith|Doorstop in May 2020. Her recent pamphlet, Rootstalk, was published by Hazel Press in November 2020.
Purchase Ella’s book and books by former podcast guests via the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop and help cover the running costs of this podcast.
Any serious poet knows the importance of redrafting. A poem can go through numerous drafts and change beyond recognition from the first jottings in a notebook to final published piece. It is also a difficult practice which takes time and effort to develop. It can be hard to see how to improve poems which either seem to be finished or failed attempts.
Choose two existing draft poems that aren’t quite working – find one where you like something about the form and another where you like something about the content/subject matter and try to combine them somehow into one. There should be an element of surprise that they’re not both about the same thing, but there is some way of making the two subjects speak to each other.
Alternatively, if there is a subject you’ve been trying to write about for a while but haven’t got where you wanted, review your existing draft poems on that subject, note down a few of the best lines/phrases/images and then try to combine them to make a new poem. Or take a set form (a sonnet, rhyming quatrains, a ballad) and write a completely new poem on the subject, but being led by the form.
This podcast regularly invites you to try writing new poems so this is a great opportunity to develop something you have already written. Maybe there is a poem you started in response to one of the other prompts which you can develop using these ideas. If you don’t have any draft poems take some of the poems you think are finished and play around with them. Whatever comes up, you’ll still have the previous versions so you’ve got nothing to lose.
As always, do share your poems. They could be featured on the blog or a future podcast. You can send them here.
Haiku may be short but the best are finely crafted with no excess words. Award-winning poet Paul Chambers has made this succinct, beautiful and often misunderstood form his specialty.
On this podcast he explains how the form works and shares some of his own haikus as well as explaining why it took three years to write the haiku above. He also offers a masterclass to get you started writing haiku. See below for details.
I think it is important to centre your focus primarily on the subject, and not on form or syllable-counting. Haiku poetry is the sharing of a sensory experience, usually set against the backdrop of the seasons. This exercise allows you to explore this:
Write the words ‘summer night’ at the top of the page. In your mind, place yourself in a familiar location on a summer night, such as your garden or on a beach. Then create a bullet-point list of everything you can experience through your senses (see, hear, touch, taste, smell) in that place on a summer night. Begin with obvious things, such as waves crashing or the moon shining, and then start to notice the smaller things, such as the taste of salt on the breeze, or sea fleas running over stones. Then, using ‘summer night’ as the first line of your haiku, write lines two and three using imagery from your sensory list. Such as:
summer night sea waves crashing through moonlight
summer night sea fleas running over moonlit stones
You can repeat this as many times as you like, and you can explore different seasonal settings too, such as ‘winter morning’, or ‘departing spring’.
As always do share your haiku for possible inclusion on the podcast or blog. Please send submissions here.
Thanks to Le Pub in Newport for providing a quiet, Covid-secure venue for the first face-to-face recording in over six months.
Paul Chambers is an award-winning haiku poet and the Editor of the Wales Haiku Journal. To date he has published two full-length collections of poetry, and has had work appear in some of the world’s most prestigious journals and anthologies, including Modern Haiku, Presence, Frogpond, the Heron’s Nest, the Atlanta Review, and the Red Moon Anthology. A selection of his haiku has also been published in the celebrated North American poetry series, A New Resonance.
Paul’s haiku has been described as ‘a poetic spell’ (Modern Haiku), and he has contributed creative and critical material to the Times Literary Supplement, the BBC, NHK World, the Arts Council of Wales and the Wales Arts Review, as well as national Japanese newspapers, the Mainichi and the Asahi Shimbun.
He has won the Museum of Haiku Literature Award, the NHK Haiku Masters Award, the Golden Triangle Haiku Award, and has been shortlisted for both the Haiku Foundation’s Distinguished Book Award and Distinguished Poem Award – the most prestigious prizes in the field of English-language haiku.
Jonathan Davidson has been writing poetry for 30 years. He also likes to read other people’s poems for entertainment and inspiration and share the joy they bring. His latest book a Common Place is more than just a poetry collection. It contains favourite poems by other poets, a commentary, gazetteer and lots and lots of footnotes.
In this interview Jonathan talks with passion about poetry and his other interests including apples and bricks. He is generous with his advice from his long writing career.
The podcast is in two parts. In the first Jonathan talks about one poem from the book Printing. He explains the background and his writing process and invites listeners to take inspiration from other technological processes: “Identify a technological process – it could be ancient like windmills or recent like open heart surgery – and write a poem in response to this process but about your own life.”
Jonathan recommends learning about the process you’ve chosen and the language around it and build some of this language and knowledge into your poem.
In the second part Jonathan talks about A Common Place and why he chose to break with convention to produce a poetry collection with various other bits added in. He also shares a couple more poems from the book.
As always it would be great to read the technological poems you write and share them on the blog or podcast. Please submit them here.
You can find out more about Jonathan Davidson via the link below and you can buy A Common Place here.
John McCullough discusses his poem Stationery from the Costa Award shortlisted collection Reckless Paper Birds. He talks about the various elements that influenced the poem: From his love life to social media posts. He invites listeners to write a poem using items of stationery as metaphors for life and relationships.
“Though the voice of ‘Stationery’ is quite anxious and manic, the poem is subtly structured not only through the jaunty, indented stanzas like steps but also through a series of images taken from the world of stationery. I’d like you to write a poem which uses one or more items of stationery as a metaphor for either a relationship or for society at large. What does it mean to be written in pencil rather than ink or to be stapled? There’s inevitably immediate potential for humour here but I’d also like you to think about how this strange perspective might be used to probe deeper territory, how adopting this unusual angle might allow you to investigate the different ways that people interact with each other.”
Pick up your pen and notebook and see what inspires you. Send your poems here and you could be featured on the blog or in a future podcast.
Alexander Rhodes found his way into the poetry scene through a combination of chance, hard work and raw talent. He has performed up and down the country and taken his award-winning verse play One Foot in the Rave to the Edinburgh Fringe and on tour. It tells the story of how he was thrown out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and became a rave DJ.
In this podcast he talks about how he became a poet and performer in a conversation rich in anecdotes and great poetry.
For a writing prompt Alexander responded with:
Transhumanism for dummies
“I like the subtle inferences of those words, and also we are accelerating towards Superintelligent AI with very little discussion among the artistic community – so now would be a good time as any.”
You can hear how Patrick and Alexander responded to this topic, and it’s an area Alexander is researching for a forthcoming novel. Do share your own responses to the prompt here or in the comments for possible inclusion on a future podcast or on the blog.
Alexander will be touring One Foot in the Rave again when lockdown is lifted and has a new show due to start touring in 2021.
Cambridge-based poet Fay Roberts was recently appointed poet in residence at Peterborough Market for the Syntax Poetry Festival. They became intimately acquainted with the people and history of this place they came to see as still being at the heart of the city if sometimes undervalued. The experience has spurred them on to bring poetry to a wider audience and to places it doesn’t usually belong especially in Cambridge where they have been the driving force behind a thriving poetry and spoken word scene for many years.
Fay talks about their experiences of the residency and shares some of the poems they wrote. They also offer a writing exercise to get anyone writing a poem about anything – or lemons in the first instance.
Set a timer for two minutes and write as many words and phrases you associate with the word Lemons. There are no “correct” associations! And if your mind springs off into other associations from those associated words and phrases, write those down as well.
Review your list/ paragraph/ three words/ scrawl. Anything else to add to your toolkit? Take one minute maximum to do that.
Set a timer for ten minutes and start writing, using the words and phrases in your toolkit. Let yourself write freely, just as you did during the toolkit section – this is your poem, and there’s no “correct” way for it to be. Be sure to check your timer occasionally so that you know when it’s time to start rounding off what you’re writing
Review your poem/ microfiction/ anecdote/ epic ode to citrus. Does it need anything to finish it off, or is it done now? Take two minutes maximum to roughly polish, chop, and round it off.
Congratulations! You have written a new piece. It took you fifteen minutes and it’s pretty damned good, if you say so yourself. And you now have a simple technique to get you started when you have something specific that you want/ need to write about.
So, when life gives you lemons write poetry! You can hear how Patrick got on at the end of the podcast and as always please share your own responses by email here or on social media using #poetrynonstop.
Luke Wright was a Blur fan and budding band frontman like so many of us in his teens. It was seeing Ross Sutherland and John Cooper Clarke perform poetry that set him on the path to a career in poetry. While he rejects the term performance poet he has excelled both in writing and performing. His poetry and blistering stage presence has impressed audiences around the world. As he put the finishing touches to his latest play The Remains of Logan Dankworth, Luke took time to look back on the first 20 years of his career sharing anecdotes and insights which are sure to inspire all poets, writers and performers. He also shares a few new poems.
For a writing prompt Luke challenges you to write a poem in 15 minutes:
Pick a word/phrase at random from a book. You don’t have to go with the first one you pick, but don’t spend all night on it, have three goes perhaps. Once you have your word or phrase set a clock for 15 minutes. In that time write a complete first draft of a poem.
You can hear one of Luke’s poems that started from this speedwriting technique and find out how far Patrick got writing a poem in 15 minutes.
As always please share your poems which maybe featured on the blog or podcast. You can send them here.
No one knows what it means for eyes to chime or how a song can spin.
Avouleance is a writer living in Norwich interested in exploring experiences with mental health difficulties through their writing. When not writing they’re studying for a masters in computational chemistry as a hobby.
In this episode Avouleance talks about living with autism and related mental health issues and how creative writing helps them express how they see the world. They also explain why they find Reddit a useful platform for exchanging ideas and sharing work.
Avouleance’s writing exercise Take a non-fiction book, open it at a random page and use whatever that page is about as a metaphor for what a character is going through and write a poem about it. You can hear Patrick’s response using a recipe for roast goose from a Hungarian cookbook.
Find out more about Avouleance on their Facebook page. More writing by Avouleance mentioned in the podcast: