Formal poetry and writer’s block

For the first time in my short poetic journey, I have been experiencing real writer’s block. Not just losing the ability to think about what to write, but also the ability to write anything worth sharing…

I have written a few poems over the last week, and they have all been shocking.

I think the problem has come from over-reading – I am pretty new to poetry and so I have been reading anything I can get my hands on. I’ve also been trying out lots of different techniques and approaches. As I have read more, so I have tried more things.

I think this is my current downfall. The words were coming freely – now I am aiming to write with more variety, I have lost the words that got me to this point.

My approach to get me out of this funk, was to pick up Stephen Fry’s poetry book – The Ode Less Travelled, Unlocking the Poet Within.

If you haven’t read it (and you are interested in Poetry) – I can highly recommend it. It takes you through the journey of different poetic forms, structures, approaches and terminology – with Stephen Fry’s usual insight and wit.

I can’t pretend, I found his attitude to poetry a little off-putting at first, he is heavily focused on formal poetry, to an almost academic level. As someone who writes a lot of free verse poetry, I felt like it was a slur on my approach (which of course, it wasn’t).

I used the book to understand the different poetic “rules” – I figured that if I was to break these “rules”, it would be better to do this from a position of knowledge, rather than ignorance.

The book starts off very heavily, discussing metre – this is interesting but detailed, and it took me a long while to get through it. Following this section of the book, I found myself much more entertained with the sections on Rhyme and Form. It was here that I learned the most and was most entertained.

I finished the book today and went back to a few poems that were “in progress” – much to my surprise, I was full of renewed vigour, the new edits and additions felt really good. So I am hoping this is the end of my mini writer’s block!

Poetry I have found interesting this week includes:

Butcher’s Dog – Biannual poetry magazine (Issue 5). This sweet little anthology of poetry was a random purchase that I made based on a tweet. When it arrived, the book looked fantastic and has such simple and effective design that I read it cover to cover. The quality of poetry is excellent – I can highly recommend it. My favourite poem from the collection is “Jam” by Char March.

Poetry Wales – Spring 2015 edition. This magazine is really excellent, after receiving a recommendation to read it, I decided to subscribe. The magazine is insightful and entertaining – the editorial intro by Nia Davies is brilliant, full of passion and power – discussing the removal of funding to the Arts and the impact that this may have. I hope this excellent magazine isn’t affected too severely.

Quiet Compere – Oxford. This event took place at Albion Beatnik Press in Oxford, and had 10 poets presenting their poetry for 10 minutes, with minimal introduction. The overall standard of poetry was superb, with a mix of established and new poets. My personal favourites from the night were (in no particular order) Ben Parker, Claire Lucille Trévien, Hilda Sheehan and Alan Buckley. The national tour is still ongoing; if it is in your area, give it a try!

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