Why and how I write

In early June, the outgoing Worcestershire Poet Laureate Leena Batchelor invited me to perform some of my poetry at a Zoom event – a night of performances by previous Poets Laureates and interviews by Leena. I was Worcestershire Poet Laureate in 2015-16 and really enjoyed catching up with Tim Cranmore, Suz Winspear, Nina Lewis and Leena together with former Staffordshire PL Emily-Rose Galvin and the brand new WPL Ade Couper.

Here are the questions she asked each of us followed by my replies.

Why is poetry/writing important to you and why do you think it’s important/relevant to today? How has writing helped you and why did you start writing? How do you write – where does the inspiration come from and how do you start?

Accepting my Poet Laureate trophy from Worcestershire Poet Laureate Emeritus, Maggie Doyle in 2015

I’ve been writing poetry for as long as I can remember. My first poem was written at infants school in response to a story. So I must have known then that poetry is a good way of telling stories. It’s also a way of expressing and exploring feelings, explaining things and imparting information in a concise way, entertaining with rhyme and rhythm, and raising a smile or laughter. I like patterns. Poems are made up of patterns. I love language. Poetry is a way of playing with words. Lots of people have turned to poetry – writing or reading – as a way of dealing with the pandemic.

I get a sense of satisfaction from writing pieces I’m pleased with. And I get pleasure from sharing my work with others, in performances or publications. Some of my poems have helped me process traumatic experiences too.

There are several ways I can be triggered into writing a poem:

When something unexpected inspires me – a turn of phrase, an incident, an interesting thought I want to explore, a news item; When I decide I want to write a poem, perhaps for a competition, for a friend or just for its own sake; When I go to a writing workshop; When someone commissions me.

Sometimes I start with lots of research and don’t do any writing for quite a while. Lots of my researched pieces are ‘found’ poems where I use existing material and present it in a new way. Poems can come from oral history interviews where I quote verbatim. In these instances it’s about selecting the right material and arranging it. Sometimes a poem comes out ready formed in a flash of inspiration. Others grow from stream of consciousness writing, where you put pen to paper and don’t stop at all for 5 minutes or more. It’s amazing what can materialise from your subconscious when you do that.

I like to start with pen and paper then move to the computer when it starts to take shape. I keep going back to it and when I think it’s finished I save it and don’t look at it again for a while so I can see it afresh. That way I’m more likely to notice errors or flaws which I didn’t see before because I was too close to it.

Chloe Clarke’s commissioned poem + NPD photos

The Worcestershire Young Poet Laureate, Chloe Clarke was commissioned by the Museum of Carpet to write a poem inspired by the museum. She performed it there on National Poetry Day at my Light and Shade event. I think it’s a lovely poem and the Museum Manager is really pleased with it. The piece will soon be shared on the Museum blog http://museumofcarpet.org/news-blog/

Carpet People

They worked tirelessly
Every step on the pedal
Every pull every loosen and wind
Every percent of accuracy
Parts of themselves falling between the threads
Forming rosebuds of their work
circles of colour to be
secured, enclosed
They spread themselves over metres of house and home
Created masterpieces in 4 walls
To be laid down, walked on, ripped up and put away
When another shade, pattern or feel came into fashion
Sat, waiting, wanting to be chopped into a new kind of carpet, a rug, a doormat
To be in a new place
Or to have their handiwork glanced at for a final time
See
To you or me
carpet may seem something we never think about… until we’re asked to write a poem about it.
It’s something that we see constantly without a second thought.

But to those people
It was their livelihood
And when they were gone
When their names were lost in time
Faded, like the patterns they dyed
The colours that irritated their skin
it became a fossil of themselves
The only physical proof that they, they were here
That they were

And what a legacy they left
the sound of the machines are still beating in their blood lines
They kept soldiers warm after years of fighting their own battles in the cold
Fingerprints of their existence
Inked themselves over the whole town, country,
Even world
A museum of memories to encapsulate their years
A shrine to their blood sweat and tears.

I wonder if I will ever make anything someone will want to cover their house with
Whether I’ll make anything worth a spot in a gallery, a museum
Or a book worth awards
To be studied in future generations
Whether my name will fade, disappear
Or like a star
Still seen hundreds of years after I have gone
Maybe we will leave behind a home,
memories in our loved ones minds
Words that we said
Maybe we will always be just here (gesture to heart)
Maybe we will leave a possession passed from generation to generation
Like your great grandfathers pocket watch or your grandmothers wedding ring
Maybe we will leave a poem or some carpet, a mixtape or a family video
Things that we’ve spent hours perfecting.

What will be in someone’s garage, living room, back garden, pocket or heart,
As the only proof that we existed?

© Chloe Clarke
Commissioned by Museum of Carpet, Kidderminster, October 2015

Cutting from Slap Magazine http://www.slapmag.co.uk/

Cutting from Slap Magazine
http://www.slapmag.co.uk/

A few of the other performers are represented in the photos below. To find out more about the event see my recent blog post https://weavingyarns1.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/being-a-poet-laureate-on-national-poetry-day/

Cutting from Kidderminster Express & Star

Cutting from Kidderminster Express & Star

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Brian Comber, competition finalist

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Charley Barnes, shortlist public vote Winner

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Suz Winspear and Nina Lewis

Suz Winspear and Nina Lewis

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