How I write a poem

1. I begin with an impression, idea, issue, emotion or image

I begin each poem with a thought or an impression, an idea, issue or an emotion. Or it could be a series of images or visual pictures. It is this initial moment of contemplation that impels me.

This moment sometimes just pops into my head and, for the life of me, I don’t know where it came from. For other poems it could be something that I read, something that was said to me or an impression I garnered from the news on TV.

I never plan a poem because for me a poem is emergent; it is organic and grows as it is written. I believe that the idea, the impression, the emotion or the image needs to open up into the language. Over-planning can kill a poem.

This is not the same for other forms of writing.This organic and emergent nature of writing poetry is a core practice in how I do the art.

2. I start writing in my rough book

I use a rough note book and begin to write the poem. It is as if the poem is writing itself and forming like the sculptor who works on the block of stone.

In writing the poem I use two different coloured pens: one is usually blue and I use it to write the body of the poem; the other is red, green or some such colour that becomes my editing pen, deployed once the basic form of the poem is finished.

Some poems need little editing; other poems are extensively edited and shaped and take time to fully form. For me, poetry is a craft at which you work so that the poem is shaped and honed into a piece of art composed of the rhythmical use of words.

3. I publish the poem online in draft

I then put the poem on my website as a draft poem and often leave it alone for a while. It is interesting what changes over time and what forms as you come back to revisit the poem and think about what it is that the poem is saying.

4. I publish the poem as fully formed but always open

Finally, I publish the poem and sometimes promote it on social media. That’s not to say that I consider any poem ever fully finished. It is always open, and, indeed, I have found myself nutting about poems and changing poems that I wrote years ago.

It has to be said that writing poetry can become an addiction. You feel that you are impelled to write and that the poem is leading you to the pen. If you have ever felt that, then you are indeed a poet.