Tim Love alerted me to a poetry blog tour project. We have to answer 4 standard questions about our work. If you have a blog and write poetry and you’d like to join in, let me know and I’ll link to you.
What am I working on?
A kind-of humorous poem about a visit to King Lear.
How does my work differ from others in the genre?
I write formalist poetry, so my work usually rhymes and has a strong identifiable rhythm. Within that genre, I’d say I rely more on dark humour and less on lyricism than most. Lots of my poems tell stories or express ideas more directly than usual. I haven’t yet decided whether this is a strength I should defend or something I should try to train myself out of. More exercise of my lyrical muscles certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Why do I write what I write?
I’ve always loved poetry and writing and making people laugh. I wrote my first book of poetry aged ten, for a county primary school competition. It was undoubtedly awful doggerel, but maybe it had some laughs – it made me laugh anyway, as I recollect. Since then I’ve tried writing comedy, plays, and novels, but I’m not much good at any of those, so a few years ago I came back to poetry again. Having a sister who is a successful poet was undoubtedly an influence too.
How does your writing process work?
I usually start in pencil or in Word with an exploration in prose of what I want to say. I then organize it into a loose structure: since my poems are often narrative, order comes naturally. At this point I’ll think about whether that structure fits any particular form (Are there natural pivot-points that would fit a sonnet? Would separate paragraphs fall into stanzas? Would a refrain add anything?).
Then I look for phrases I particularly like and see whether they fall into some sort of metrical rhythm, usually either iambic or anapaestic, and whether any sort of phrase length dominates – usually 4 or 5 beats – to try to assign a tentative meter.
I extract lines that fit that pattern and arrange them on the page. Next I look for end words of those phrases which either rhyme already, could easily rhyme with a slight substitution or rearrangement, or which have good rhyming options. Generally I start at the end and work backwards: if I’m trying to be witty, I need to ensure a strong finish.
I don’t write every poem this way. Often I will know something is a sonnet before I’ve written a word, or a large chunk of stanza will come to me practically at once. But when I follow a method, this is probably it.