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Poet in the Box

Poet in the Box

Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes
Little boxes
Little boxes all the same
(Little Boxes, written by Malvina Reynolds, performed by Pete Seeger)

Whatever kind of artist you might be, it can be a struggle to find your own voice. It's not just what you are saying but also how you say it. I didn't actually realise I had found my voice until I went to a St David's Day event hosted by Seren Books in 2014. A handful of lucky attendees were invited to bring a few poems to discuss, one-to-one, with their poetry editor, Amy Wack. It wasn't a workshop session, just a 10 minute discussion about style and subject matter and the poets I read and had been influenced by. As our 10 minutes drew to a close she commented that I seemed to have found my voice in my poems. That statement was probably the kick up my backside that I needed to start believing my work was ready to seek publication.

Another Brick in the Wall

There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same

Over the last couple of years, since I started paying close attention to the sorts of things that editors like (and don't like), several times I've heard disappointment that poets emerge from Masters and MFA courses sounding exactly like a poet who has just finished one of those courses. I was very apprehensive about that when I began pondering the idea of studying an MA myself. I wanted to broaden my poetic language without forcing it into poetic RP (received pronunciation) voice.

the correct term is "'the Received Pronunciation'. The word 'received' conveys its original meaning of 'accepted' or 'approved', as in 'received wisdom'.

The Shape of Things to Come

I think the art comes in building on the wisdom we imbibe, letting our ideas ferment and turn into a tongue-loosening liquor; for teetotal poets like me, imagine it like a loaf of sourdough bread, where each new loaf is created from a starter dough from the previous loaf.

Break on Through to the Other Side

Made the scene
Week to week
Day to day
Hour to hour
The gate is straight
Deep and wide
Break on through to the other side
(from Break on Through (to the Other Side) by The Doors)

I need to break out of my comfort zone. That's why I decided to apply to return to Swansea and study for an MA in Creative Writing, as related in last week's blog post, Poetic Parklife.

I need to challenge my geographical horizons as much as my literary ones. I'm confident I can retain my poetic voice whilst also allowing it to expand and push beyond the box that has been my poetic boundary for the last five years. I have no idea what to expect but am eager to embrace it :)

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

And the people in the houses all go to the university
And they all get put in boxes, little boxes all the same
And there's doctors and there's lawyers
And business executives
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same

I'm over the moon to be able to reveal that my MA application has received an unconditional offer. All I have to do is sign my name and put a tick in the box ...

I'm going to do that now, before the magnitude of what I'm about to do sinks in! I aim to be a stone that skims, rather than one that plops into the depths and swims with the fishes. This time next year I should be sitting on the dock of Swansea bay, watching the poetry roll in :)

#MastersCourses #Boxes #Swansea #Poetry @SerenBooks @amylwack

Published ineducationPoetry


  1. A lot of twaddle is talked about finding voices.

    But maybe there is some sense in thinking you have to find the voice for each poem, or try.

    And avoid settling into a ‘style’.

    Style is a killer.

  2. Frances Browner Frances Browner

    Another great post, Giles, I’m catching up on all I missed during the holiday. Love Little Boxes and how you have made it a headline for your different paragraphs. Good luck with your MA; I completed one in City College, NY, many moons ago, and thoroughly enjoyed. Probably the first time, I had shared my writing with others. I agree with the lady above, there is a different voice for every poem, but I know what that editor meant, you have found the confidence to use your various poetic voices.

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