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Lessons In Poetry Writing

What better than having a poet share experiences of poetry writing. The Poetry Society (India) anthologies of their poetry competitions have also talked of some of the poetry-writing concepts of their invitee poets in the introduction to each of them. The poets sharing their ideas and knowledge of this art are: Jo Shapcott, Lawrence Sail, Anthony Thwaite, Michael Hulse, Stephen Knight, Vicky Feaver...

from Poetry India: Voices Of Many Worlds

"Vicky Feaver planned the workshop in her own style. She asked the participants to compose poems on the spot. She distributed four poems by Michael Longley, Seamus Heaney, and Jo Shapcott.

  • She explained how ordinary things, which we did not notice, became important for poets. She emphasised the importance of images in poems. She gave the example of depicting a person's old age by referring to her white hair...
  • Another important facet of a poem, she affirmed, was the depiction of action. VF stressed the use of words such as scissors, a kind of touch, or a particular sound to denote action.
  • The use of rituals in poems was another feature which she emphasised as its use could enrich the poems. The message of a poem was also considered necessary.
  • From rituals VF moved on to the use of fairy tales and legends and alluded to the poems in which legends from the Bible were used. She said, it was not necessary to take the whole legend in a poem but one could use a moment in the legend and weave a story around it with someone's voice to hold it together."
from Poetry India: Voices Of Silence

"Stephen Knight...
...said that poetry ought not to be rhetorical in nature. Extra details or statements ought to be avoided. It should be left to the reader to visualise a state of emotion in a poem and not describe it in a straight-forward manner. Imagery has its contribution in poetry. Strong images ought to be left alone to do their work. He also observed that poetry is not like the work of a journalist who ought to be full of facts or figures. In journalistic writing nothing is left to the reader's imagination. Poetry was meant to be enjoyed. He commented that the phrases like 'I knew' or 'I understood', etc. were superfluous in poetry.
...affirmed that modern poetry must not possess ironical 'ohs' and 'ahs'. There ought to be some practical dimension reflected in poetry. Personnally, he felt that the image was the most important part in poetry because the stronger the image, the less one had to depend upon the detail. Even the evidential descriptions in poetry ought to be given with some restraint because one could convince one's readers only by proving the genuineness and not just by presenting the detail."

from Poetry India: Voices From Within

"Why do we write? And, why does one write poetry and not prose?
Shapcott explains: A poem unfolds a vivid picture and there is a flow of events in it. Moments that reveal more than stastical outlines of issues need to be recorded in poetry than in prose for otherwise the finer implications will be buried under the sheer weight of the prose. It is therefore important to note that the subjects that get best highlighted through poetry are those that have struck the poet on account of his or her own direct experience and not those that are imposed on the poet. Poetry written on demand or commissioned to be written on a theme often lacks the fine characterstics of poetry. Thus Shapcott advises a young poet to maintain a notebook in which the poet should note all that deeply touches the poet, and when the poet is perfectly composed he or she can get back to the ideas and ride on them into the deeper realms for a new vision and a meaning. Often one explains these visions through someone, maybe an image...The image has to speak for the poet and remain relevant until its role is over..."

from Poetry India: Voices For The Future

"Lawrence Sail remarked that though we came from different traditions of poetry, it was always good to accept honest and hard criticism, for it was only criticism that could help the poet in perfecting his art. He added that one could teach the craft of the art to a poet, but one could not make a non-poet a poet....Mr Sail felt that it was important for a poet to be adept in composing poems in different poetic forms, even though he chose to ignore all of them...Another important suggestion that was made was that one should avoid rushing to paper whenever an idea struck a poet. Mr Sail felt that each idea needed to be incubated in the mind of a poet for quite some time, so that it came out in its perfect detail and rhythm....The title of a poem should be sufficiently intriguing and the poet should be particular about using every word in the title as well as in the body of the poem. The poem, as it grows should unlock the title and reveal its meaning. The title may also have an ironic meaning."

from Poetry India: Emerging Voices

"The more close a poet remains both to his consciousness and the world around him, the more powerful his feelings grow. We find more poetry flowing out of such a poet. He is able to process at ease his observations and begin expressing them through emotions and feelings. In such a state, a poet has to co-ordinate the forces within and the forces without in order to retain his capacity to dip into experience from a willed angle."

from Poetry India: Voices In Time

"Each poem should be a work with a purpose, which it ought to communicate to the readers. A creative work, suffers if it fails to communicate its purpose. Let us know that all that we do or create is not only for ourselves. We think of others as well. We think of the world which influences our personality. Often when a creative impulse comes and gives rise to a poem, a poet does not think of himself, for the poet rises above the ordinary human levels and becomes one with the experience, and translates it, though not through statements but through symbols, images, etc. A theme covered in a poem may be a common one but it should be presented in such a way that it attracts others' attention by one sort of newness or another."

from Poetry India: Voices In The Making

"The notion that poetry can be best written in ones mother tongue may be true, but keeping in view the growing number of Indian poets writing in English today, and the passion with which they perform this exercise makes us ponder the subject once again. Some of the Indian poets whose mother tongue is not English have still produced poems of a good standard. While accepting the importance of mother tongue in composing poetry, we have to accept the influences that compel the Indian poets to write in English"

from Poetry India: New Voices

"Indian English poetry written by some well-known poets in the past has been diverse in its styles and themes. We notice the influences of the Greek, Latin and English poets on some of them. The influences of John Milton, Oscar Wilde, Ezra Pound, William Wordsworth, P B Shelley, Alfred tennyson, Lionel Johnson, Ernest Dowson and T S Eliot on some of the works of our earlier Indian English poets is seen especially in the use of the idiom, imagery and the selection of subjects. Such influences were temporary and were noticed only in the works of some of the poets. They could be regarded as superfluous, for the works of the Indian English poets reflected not only Indian themes and sensibilities, but also the aspects of change and impact of modernism. This change could be noticed, for instance, in the use of imagery. In their works we, however, saw a synthesis of English poetic traditions and Indian images and sensibilities. Sri Aurobindo regarded poetry as a rhythmic voyage. This voyage revealed his mystic experiences and the roots of Indian philosophy and values. For him, poetry was a step in the evolution of consciousness. For others, it could be a voyage into something subtle, higher and unknown. And, they begin to write with an urge, with or without a rationale behind them."

 

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