Writing a poem is often all about putting an observation about the world around you or the way you feel about something important to you into words. A poem can be about anything, from greeting a long-lost friend or relative to describing the beauty of a summer’s – or winter’s – day. A poem might start as an idea gleaned from a snippet of a verse, classic or modern, a line or two that seems to come out of nowhere, or an image you just can’t get out of your head.
As poetry editor, I chat a lot to our poets and sometimes an idea for a poem can come from one of our online conversations. An example of this was one windy day when I was writing to Dawn Lawrence about the effect that this kind of weather has on my appearance when I arrive at the front door here at DC Thomson after braving a brisk breeze along the way.
“I often get an image in my mind with something humorous, and in the case of my poem ‘Bad Hair Day’, (chosen for a future Fireside Book because it will illustrate so well) this came across well,” Dawn recalls. “I usually pray for a non-windy day on the many occasions when I have to give talks on my wildlife projects, but since I haven’t got a great deal of hair, I generally don’t have too much trouble!
“The funny incidents of life I can cope with, since I like to report on these as and when they occur. Serious stuff takes a lot longer, often a few days. But poetry has become a habit with me from a young age. It’s just one of those things I can’t get out of!”
Regular “Friend” poetry contributor Eileen Hay tells me: “I can’t remember a time when poetry was not a part of my life. However, I must admit it never occurred to me that I would ever have anything actually published!
“Just over ten years ago, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to send one of my poems off to a magazine instead of simply keeping my collection in a notebook in my desk. The best I hoped for was a kind letter of rejection and I couldn’t quite believe it when ‘My Dreadful Cat’ was accepted by the ‘Friend”. I was on cloud nine!
“Many things can prompt the idea for a poem, whether it is watching my cat’s antics or waking to a snow-covered garden. Sometimes the inspiration comes directly – for example, walking in a local bluebell wood or thinking of my New Year resolutions.
“If inspiration is ever a little lacking, then that is when having a Poetry Editor on hand really comes in handy and a good example of this concerns one of my poems called ‘Clutter!’ which appeared in Special 143. During one of our online chats Alison mentioned that she was going to be doing some spring cleaning during her next holiday and this got me thinking about my own environment.
“I remembered that she had once suggested that I simply look around me to take inspiration from everyday things, and that is exactly what I did. I realised that the books, plants and photographs which made my living room homely to me might seem like clutter to other people and that became the theme of my poem.
“It was a timely reminder that poetry can be found in everything and I don’t have to look too far for inspiration!”
So here’s a message for all budding poets out there. If you feel in a creative mood and yet a subject for writing a poem is elusive, just look around you. Inspiration is closer than you think!