The process

The following poem series, is also based on the Victorian couple archive image from my last post. Here, though, I wanted to show something of the processes I use to write and to find form. This can shift according to where I am, what I’m trying to achieve and how I’m feeling. All things are variable, which is an indication why no-one should dictate how you or I might write.

With poetry, though, I most often start with a notebook (or any scrap of paper if the whim hits when that’s all I have). My preference is to use a mechanical pencil as I don’t have to worry about getting up to sharpen it. This is important as breaking the flow can disrupt a poem to the point where it can’t be reclaimed. That may lead to another offering, but we’ll never know how good the original might have been. Frustrating!

Sometimes, I wake with an idea or even specific words drilling themself into my head but with this work, as Poet in Residence for Portsmouth City Council Library and Archive Service, the writing is regulated by prompts that I find. So, in this scenario, I write notes around the subject. For photographs those will be mainly descriptive words, but the descriptions will lead to suppositions surrounding likelihoods that inform the subsequent writing.

You’ll see (below) that although my notes begin as statements about the artefact, they quickly morph into half formed lines that could (and often will) become a poem. This is my brain already looking for rhythm, alliteration, even rhyme: a subconscious response but one that’s useful. You’ll see lines from the notes finding their way directly into the poem.

Haiku seemed a pertinent form for this piece – capturing a ‘moment in time’, as it does. I wrote one ecompassing haiku, which I use at the beginning and end of the sequence, with a single word alteration that subtly effects the meaning. Within that framework, I worked backwards from my notes to include recognisabe specifics from the image, while looking for patterns within the phrasing, useful to the arc of the poem.

The generally accepted format of a haiku, as most schoolchildren are taught, is 3 lines, with a syllable (or beat) count of 5;7;5. Modern versions often break this, as they do with the traditional punctuation, but I have mostly stuck with the form as devised. The poem sequence will be uploaded in a separate post, to be more accessible.

If you click on the images, however, you’ll find more info about the process.

4th February, 2019


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