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Break Some Eggs, Scramble a Poem

Break Some Eggs, Scramble a Poem

It does not matter what genre you write in, at some point somebody will ask, "so what do you write about?" That might be easier for some writers and some genres than for others. For example, if you ask Stephen King or John Grisham what kind of writing they do, they probably wouldn't have to thik too long or hard about it; Shakespeare might have struggled to pin it down to one idea (am I a playwright or a poet? Do I mainly write histories, comedies, tragedies or sonnets?). When I think about the poets that I know well, the majority of them have covered a pretty wide spectrum of subjects, some using a narrow range of styles and others taking on a very wide range, but it's rarely easy to pick one succinct characteristic that typifies a poet's style of writing.

I was reading an interview with David Cain, 'Notes From the Blogosphere', in The Writer magazine David's blog covers the human experience. The interview starts with David being asked if there are things that he would like to write about that fall outside of his blog's focus. There were indeed, including film, shows, music acts, sporting events, and video games, which he explains do occasionally cross message with the human experience theme, but cannot take control and be more important than the human experience. He continues by saying "I still do not know how to answer the question 'what do you write about?'"

My personal approach in writing poetry is that any subject under the sun is fair game for a poem. If I am writing a set of poems on a specific theme, such as for my pamphlet 'Dressing Up' (publication early 2017 with Cinnamon Press), then naturally the scope is narrower, but once that set is done then I can choose to write about anything that has caught my imagination, whether I've been watching a ballet or the 10 o'clock news. I would not dream of saying I write love poems, science poems, scary poems or weird and wonderful poems, because all of those themes make their ways into different poems at different times, maybe even into a weird scary love poem set in a chemistry lab, and that is perhaps what I love most about the medium of poetry, as both a writer and a reader.

What I do enjoy doing in my poetry is bringing out contrasts, and using contrasts to show characteristics between different people and different landscapes and spaces; one empty space can be remarkably different from any other empty space, and a poem can give voice to both of them. I like to plant a rose bush in the middle of a computer assembly line and see how it gets on, or to take a sports car out into the wild countryside, abandon it there, and then write a poem about the flora and fauna that has made it home six months later.

To bring this brief consideration of the question "what do you write?" to a close, I've seen, and been part of, a couple of groups that have asked when it is suitable to describe oneself as a poet. The Over The Edge international online group, run by Kevin Higgins in Galway, discussed that very question at the end of a recent session. On LinkedIn the group Poetry Editors and Poets asked a similar question, "when are you a poet?" The simplest answer by far is anytime you write a poem! My belief is that if you are writing any poem, no matter how short, then that is poetry and by default you are being a poet! For me the point that made me consider myself a poet was when I moved away from high school to study a chemistry degree and still continued to write poetry for pleasure. That was the point where I knew I was writing poetry because I simply enjoyed doing so, rather than with any potential use in a school homework exercise. To be fair, my high school Eng Lang and Lit A-Level course included study of Thomas Hardy's collected poems from a language perspective, but at no point did we need to write our own poetry, so all my poetry writing has been from a personal delight in the medium. Apart from a handful of random submissions it took me until 2010, about 20 years from the point I considered myself "a poet" to send out any serious submissions to a wider range of magazines and competitions. At no point however, from age 20 onwards, did I worry that calling myself a poet was inappropriate.

It can be difficult to build up the confidence to call yourself a poet, even in the privacy of your own home, and to proclaim it with a blog or a website name can be even more daunting. But if you write poetry of your own, then you are, sure as eggs is eggs, a poet :)

#TheWriter #CinnamonPress #OverTheEdge #Raptitude #DavidCain

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