Writing poetry can seem like a daunting challenge to a fledgling poet: where do you find inspiration? How do you start a poem? And how can you use poetry to express your emotions and explore language?
These are some of the questions tackled by Simon Armitage, Joe Dunthorne, Lavinia Greenlaw and this year’s National Poetry Day Poet-in-Residence Daljit Nagra. Each poet offers tips on how to get going writing poetry and an accompanying set of films sees each poet read a favourite poem.
Armitage calls poets ‘the awkward squad’ and argues that the key to good writing is ‘reading, reading and reading’, and Dunthorne tells us how poetry for him is ‘exploring language’.
Nagra admits to being a late starter, writing his first poem at the age of 21 but he says the inspiration for poems (the WHOOSH!) can come at any place and at any time. The trick is to be receptive and listen to yourself.
Lavinia Greenlaw recommends young poets ‘get out and experience life’ and sums up the enduring popularity of poetry when she says: ‘There will always be poetry because people will always find it hard to say what they want to say – and that’s when people turn to poetry’.
Daljit Nagra was born and raised in West London, then Sheffield, and currently lives in Willesden where he works in a secondary school. His first collection, Look We Have Coming to Dover!, won the 2007 Forward Prize for Best First Collection and was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award. In 2008 he won the South Bank Show/Arts Council Decibel Award. Nagra is also Poet-in-Residence at this year’s National Poetry Day.
Daljit’s three tips:
- Read lots of poets (preferably living
- Write all the time (keep a notepad with you)
- Show your work to others (develop a thick skin!)
Simon Armitage was born in West Yorkshire in 1963. In 1992 he was winner of one of the first Forward Prizes, and a year later was the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. Among his collections of poetry are Kid, Book of Matches, The Universal Home Doctor and Tyrannosaurus Rex versus The Corduroy Kid. His acclaimed translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was published in 2007. His most recent collection, Seeing Stars , was published in 2010.
Simon’s three tips:
(‘You can’t be a writer unless you’re a reader.’)
Lavinia Greenlaw has published three books of poems, Night Photograph (1993), A World Where News Travelled Slowly (1997) and Minsk (2003), which was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot, Forward and Whitbread Poetry prizes. Her two novels are Mary George of Allnorthover (2001), which won France’s Prix du Premier Roman Etranger, and An Irresponsible Age (2006). In 2007 she published her memoir, The Importance of Music to Girls. She lives in London and is a professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.
Lavinia’s three tips:
- Don’t write on a screen – write in a notebook to see what you’re crossing out and to see the poem as a physical thing
- Read more than you write – read the foreign and the dead
- Learn what it is that keeps you awake – what it is you’re curious about – and pursue it
Joe Dunthorne was born and brought up in Swansea. His debut novel, Submarine, published by Hamish Hamilton, won the Curtis Brown prize. It has been translated in to nine languages and a film of the book is in production. His poetry has been published in Poetry Review, New Welsh Review and Voice Recognition. He performs regularly and co-organises Homework, a monthly night of literary miscellany. His first poetry pamphlet was published under the Faber New Poets/Arts Council programme in 2010. He lives in London.
Joe’s three tips:
- Explore language
- Write nine bad poems and hope for one good one
- There are no rules with poetry
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Poetry Courses at the Faber Academy
If you are looking for further inspiration for writing, and are keen to develop your poetry, why not find out if there’s a Faber Academy creative writing course for you?
Visit www.faberacademy.co.uk for details.