This little book assumes you want to write as well as you can. It tries not to tell you what or how to write. Naturally I have my axe to grind and I hope you will be alert to the sound of sharpening in many of my convictions. You should be able to test the edge without having to put your head on the block.
In fact, I agree with those who think that no one can teach you how to write. ‘Poetry must work out its own salvation in a man’ as Keats says; ‘it cannot be matured by law and precept, but by sensation and watchfulness in itself. That which is creative must create itself.’ Keats’s amazingly rapid development as a writer, though, is itself proof that people can learn to become better writers.
My main preoccupation in this book is with writing authentically. I mean by this saying genuinely what you genuinely need to say. I believe that when you write authentically the experience is the same as Keats’s must have been when writing his great poems. It is true that, unless we have genius (and are living in a time congenial to it), we won’t be writing as durably and eloquently as Keats; but we will have found what he called ‘the true voice of feeling’. It is that voice which allows us to explore, order and make sense of our lives. That’s the point of it, for me. The product of that experience may also be publishable – worth making public – but our poems are first of all for ourselves.
One: Writing Poems 8
Two: A Poem Analysed 25
Three: The Spirit of the Age 32
Four: Almost a Remembrance 38
Five: Writing Poems 50
Six: Workshop Techniques and Writing Games 66
Seven: Metre, Rhyme, Half-Rhyme and Free Verse 79
Eight: Some Given Forms 91
Nine: Some Poets and Poems 110
Ten: Where to Go from Here 119
BLOODAXE BOOKS LTD Registered Office: Eastburn, South Park, Hexham, Northumberland NE46 1BS, UK Registered Number 1656254 England VAT No 414 4062 89