About two years ago I started writing poetry. It was something that I’d experimented with before, but never really formally or with any kind of purpose. I must have written poems back in the stone age when I was at school, but would have no written record of such ramblings. And anyway, my school wasn’t the kind of place where a boy wrote poetry, unless he was ordered to by one of the psychotic teachers. Boys did sport, yelled a lot, swore and most likely spat on the ground like their life depended on it. Boys. Did. Not. Write.
Any poetry written in class would be hidden away from prying eyes and mocking tongues. Any hint of a notebook being carried around would provoke instant hatred and could only lead to years of cruel abuse from your peers (and probably even some of your friends).
As a younger adult, I’m sure I’d tried to write poems, but I’m pretty certain that when they existed, it would have been on scarps of paper and that these were long ago confined to the recycling plant.
I’ve never been a confident person. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that I’ve learnt to wear a convincing mask in order to hide what is actually a rather crippling lack of confidence. So, although I felt like I had something to say and that I could write, it was going to take a seismic shift to make me commit ideas to paper in the form of poetry.
It turns out that ‘thing’ was lockdown. I was locked down almost immediately once the decision was made. While colleagues stayed in school and battled to keep some sense of normality in people’s lives, I was told that I was vulnerable and had to stay at home. Couple that with a complete failure in terms of remote learning with my laptop and there were a huge amount of days waiting to be filled.
I’d started my blog by then and so was in the habit of writing. As can be the case with me, I wasn’t really in the habit of sleeping regular hours though. And one night, lying awake with words whirling round my head, I realised that I had the bones of a poem keeping me awake. So, I crept downstairs, opened a notebook and wrote a poem; one draft and what felt like no particular thought needed. I don’t know whether it reads like a one-draft-no-effort poem, but it was done! I thought I’d published that poem as part of the bog, but looking back, it doesn’t seem so.
From there I came up with the idea of a lockdown writers’ group – Lockdown Literature, you can read about it on the link below – where friends and colleagues could publish anything they’d written; whatever it took to stave off the boredom of being isolated like never before. Inspired by others, I was able to write a few more poems.
Our Lockdown Literature group made me think about what to do with my poems. By now I was writing them regularly and so, once I’d decided that a) I had the confidence to share and b) I didn’t feel it was too much of a pretentious thing to do, I started to publish some of my poems as blogs, adding a little bit of explanation about the poem and about my thinking when writing it. They seemed to go down well and it gave me another blogging avenue to explore.
Now though, I want to develop things a bit. It’s lovely that people who read the blog like my poems, but I want to really test myself with it and I must admit that I’m unsure of how to move forward. I’ve considered things like poetry competitions, but from what I can see, a lot of them require entries to be unpublished and I don’t really know if my own blog counts in those terms. However, it’s stopped me entering anything so far. It’s certainly something that I need to look into and if anyone has any advice, I’d gladly listen.
Another route I’ve wondered about with my poems is to attempt to put together an anthology, but it’s an area that I know next to nothing about. I realise that I could self-publish, but without adequate promotion, even an anthology is not going to gain any interest. Is it the kind of thing I can send to publishers? If so, how do I group poems and how do I approach agents or publishers? Again, it’s something I really need some advice on, so if you’re reading this and you have any insight, I’d be really grateful for your help.
The third and final way of developing my poetry terrifies me. In actual fact, I’ve only considered it because a few people have suggested it. One kind soul even invited me along to actually take part. What am I talking about? Performance poetry! This is something that I can’t deny tempts me, but despite my advancing years and the fact that I talk at people for a living, the thought of standing on a stage – makeshift or otherwise – in a room full of people, reading out my poems, makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and my tummy feel a little bit poorly!
It’s not actually the thought of an audience that bothers me very much. No, it’s more the thought of exposing something as personal as my poetry to what would likely be an entirely new audience. Every day of every week brings an audience of harsh critics in the form of pupils in a classroom, so speaking in front of people is second nature. And not to play the tortured ‘artist’ here, but the idea of reading so many personal words (does that make sense?) and even considering myself any kind of poet, feels very much beyond me.
Still though, I find myself trying to pluck up the courage and find the time to attend such an evening, not as a performer, but as a punter just to try and see what it’s all about. Maybe once that step is taken, I could find the courage to put myself down for some kind of open mic slot. Even typing the words fills me full of dread though, so it would be one hell of a step to take!
So 2022 has to be the year that I trying and ramp up my poetry game. It reality feels like something that could develop and something that I believe in somewhere at the back of my mind! I just need to work out how.
As ever, feel free to leave a comment, especially if you have any suggestions that might help me!