Category Archives: Thoughts On Poetry

Why do I write poetry?

I sometimes ask myself why I write poetry, after all there are so many great writers I imagine that the world doesn’t really need mine.But time and again I am drawn to read other people’s poetry and every so often am motivated to write another myself.

I think, and I am only thinking rather than concluding, that it’s everything to do with organising memories, feelings and observations in life. Sure, I can do this through photography and recording a video or just audio, but none of these are quite the same. They simply are about things captured in a very planned mechanical straight forward way. The sound is recorded, a picture taken, or a video captured, but none of those are truly instantaneous, although just like a poem I can edit them, and then decide their purpose. Conversely, a poem comes out of thin air, nothing mechanical, and nothing complete to start with. A poem just appears with its heartbeat and then grows, almost by its own devices. I can look at a flower, and from somewhere comes a thought that grows, and I don’t truly know why.

Yes, we can consider consciousness, and knowledge and experiences assimilated that perhaps determined an internal condition which rewards us, et voila, we like poetry. Subsequently we desire to organise thoughts into words and poems, but it still doesn’t explain to me really why I want to do it. I’m thinking that it just matters to me perhaps. I have a voice, I wave and say I’m here. I believe that the word ‘resonates’ is an important factor in all this. I search poetry, open up a blog and that word surfaces. It’s intangible but real. I recognise that poetry gives me something in a way that nothing else does. I wonder then, why isn’t everyone else interested in poetry? Then here I am, back arriving at where I started. Why do I write poetry>

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Poetry in action.

Just before having a very recent holiday in Madeira I attended a writing workshop at my local museum which was themed around their current exhibition on mapping. It was with this theme in mind that I wrote the following poem. One of the things I love to do is to write about things that are there in front of me when I can process what I am seeing, hearing and feeling in real-time to be polished later at my leisure. Not only is the poem now a great moment of my holiday, but it and two others I wrote are going to be published in an anthology to help raise funds for the museum. I love the idea of poetry in action. I hope you enjoy it.

FUNCHAL.      by Neil William Holland

The first light declares itself like a land-based star,
one single point taking its place in a soon-to-be constellation
that is Funchal at night.
Others follow and I find my way by them.
The up-lit trees and jeweled homes  
trespassing on ancient volcanic slopes.

A brighter white north-star of light marks the headland of the bay. 
Lamps colour doors like chameleons morphing night from day.
I have walked their ways, the shops, the parks, the roads, 
now they exchange their white globes 
for a world of warmth and mysterious shadows.

The streets help me to navigate from my balcony, the tall hotels,
the churches, the malls, illuminate my memory as their lights
pulse in the hot night air. I make it a familiar place, standing there,
counting the nights left of our stay, my glass of wine in hand.
I’m tired from our Levada walk, and retiring to a different land.

At first light, our balcony rail silhouettes its shadow, creeps
around the fabric-folds and valleys of our net curtain.
To my right, in the old villa garden a cockerel crows
as Funchal begins to stir. To my left the feint murmur 
of traffic grows, but the silence of the sea remains.
This compass of sound is a gentle wakening.

How To Progress Your Poetry

Hi there.
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Me with the director of Colourscape, preparing to read poetry in London.

Deciding on a title for this post, the first of a few I hope to write on the subject, was a very difficult thing for me to determine. I could call it ‘How I Write Poetry’ really, or ‘My Poetry Journey’ perhaps.I would never be so pretentious as to say this is how to write a good poem or this is how to be a successful poet. I don’t really know myself. It’s a case of the more I know the more I don’t know so to speak, but I do know about my own poetry journey and I can very well recall how much I wanted to write better than I could when I started, when I first became interested and discovered that I too would like to create poems. Ever since that moment I have been looking for help while discovering things about writing poetry, and part of that process leads me to want to share my journey. Maybe, just maybe, I can help someone else just as others have helped me.

I’m very much still chasing the poetry-rainbow with an ambition to write just one really good poem, one perhaps that will live longer than me, something to be remembered by many others hopefully. Realistic? Perhaps not, but I am happy with the journey so far, after all I don’t set free my self-judged failures, so whatever I make public means something to me at least. Maybe the thrill is in the chase. By doing just that I am exploring myself creatively. It can only be a good thing to live life and engage with it as opposed to simply hoping life is something that happens to you, not through you. I once had a cancer diagnosis and came through that, and partly it is why I want to write at all. That sort of thing is a game-changer. You start to look at life more closely, yet we can all do just that without such a jolt. It’s a question of centering ourselves through choice.

Everything we write will not appeal to others, it’s the nature of personal taste, but to be honest I own five volumes of Wordsworth’s poetry from boy to older man, yet most people will likely just recall the one about daffodils, but what a poem that is. That is the pot of gold in a creative sense. At least, while heading in that direction as best as we can, towards the rainbow, I guarantee that we writers and poets will leave behind a valuable mark on the world for our loved ones, friends and descendants at the very least. Poems are time machines, you can bring somebody back to your time, your world, what it was like and how you saw it, how you felt it and engaged with it through your five senses.

What I know is that if you want to explore who you are, what you are about, then poetry is a very good way of doing just that. If you start writing and thinking in a poetic way then lots of what you write will incorporate some part of who you are, your place in this world and how you see the world around you. That latter perspective will always be unique to you, only you. Not even your spouse, siblings or parents will have your world because only you are at it’s very centre. You are quite simply a unique human being and you deserve to write poetry about your world. Others have their own.

All you need, in order to start or to continue your journey, is a pen and paper, or for many, a means to write using today’s technology. It’s that simple. The most important thing at this juncture, is to start writing, keep writing or to re-invigorate your writing journey. The important thing in progressing your poetry is always to take that next step, to actually take it. Doing just that is the start of your journey, or the start of the next stage of your journey. Don’t worry about, or fear failure or rejection, you are entitled to your unique poetic voice. In a future post on this subject, I’ll talk about the early pitfalls I found, the stumbling blocks, the poetry-world I encountered and some quite magical things too.

Like A Bird On A Nest

Sometimes, most times, I sit on poems like a bird on a nest. I look at them quite proudly, warm and variegated in their colouring, turn them, fiddle them, incubate them. Then, even with all that tender loving care maybe they just don’t hatch. There comes a point where perhaps they are simply not fertile enough, never will be ready to hatch and fly as poems do once they are fledged and ready for a life of their own. it’s what we do, poets, we give something life only for it to fly away and have a life of its own. It’s what we hope for.

Sometimes though, you just want to soar, free from the burden of it all, but deep down you know you must start all over again, trying to perpetuate that species of writing you know simply has to exist. It’s inside, eternal, a driving force. Ok, perhaps not all eggs lead to magnificent birds, but if only one, just one of those eggs finally hatches and soars with all of those other magnificent birds it will be something to truly marvel at. Your own D.N.A, a piece of you up there silhouetted against the sky like a printed letter on a blank page and a natural testament to you as the provider. Sometimes such creating, such giving, seems a lonely thing but still you must fly and nest and incubate, hoping. Always hoping.

In reality, most of the time, I line my nest with the feathers of other birds, each one a phrase or a line that fired my imagination, wanting to nurture and hatch my own complete but original bird from all those collected. I line my nest with them, warm in the knowledge that they truly are fine feathers. Warm in the knowledge that hopefully, one day, all my eggs will hatch, warmed by the fine feathers I surrounded them with. Now, I sit, and write, and incubate. Just don’t try and tell me it’s pointless, for what is a world without birds?

What do I look for in poetry?

I like skill. I like cleverness. I like mastery. Most of all though, I seem to gravitate towards sincerety, even if that sincerety is not so well written, we are all a work in progress. This is the poetry that tends to stay with me, lingers in my consciousness, takes a hold and quite often reflects on how l would like my world to be, and how I want to remember it. How about yourself?

Poetic Splinters

Poetic splinters, you can get them for sure, many poetry enthusiasts have dared to guide their poetry to left of centre in one way or another. The Beat poets for example, and often this doesn’t sit too well with ultra traditionalists. Without new views on poetry however there are no new developments and I can’t help thinking that word-smithing such as Rap and Slam Poetry to name but two splinters have helped many young people to engage with the sacred art.

For my own part, try as I may, I cannot peel my poetry away from a sound enhanced treatment, and I am now pretty sure that what may be best described as digitally enhanced poetry will be around for quite some time yet. I am though also keen to keep myself in a straight line down that central poetry course we call traditional poetry and to this end I have tracked down a local Poetry Stanza of The Poetry Society and when I am able I intend to be a regular at the group (if they will have me of course).

Why am I continually fascinated by digitally enhanced poetry? The answer lies in what can be done with it, how it can colour the reading, give it atmosphere and nuances, how it can interplay and bring mood, how it can render a partnership with the imagination. That is ok I think, yes? It’s another way of rendering the essence of what otherwise may be plain unaccompanied prose. Does poetry need this? No of course not, but we live in the age of the digital world and it seems a shame not to let poetry in on it. I am hoping to continue the work in 2016 and add to my Bandcamp collection, but I am also hoping to develop my traditional skills and if you want to improve your game it plays to be in a good team surrounded by good players, preferably better than yourself, hence my aspirations towards my local Poetry Stanza. It seems like a sensible plan methinks. I’m enthused by the thought of it at least having lost my poetry mojo somewhat when everything in the world seemed to be pushing me away from the thing I know I love.

So, anyway, have a listen to the last thing I’ve done, Under The Stars. It is poetry about my dad, something we shared together on special nights. I hope something of those moments can be found by listening to it. I hope too, that you may see how the words and sound-atmosphere can work in synergy. It is almost essential to listen through headphones, as that offers the nuances really. Peace to all.

Currently reading no.2

I like to find time to pursue something akin to ‘Continued Professional Development’ with my interest in poetry. Hence this post, which is perhaps more of a ‘Continued Poetry Development’. The book I’m reading today is The Lost Works of William Carlos Williams by Robert J. Cirasa.(also subtitled as ‘The Volumes of Collected Poetry as Lyrical Sequences’). I’ve got two reasons for this, firstly anything that mentions lyrical and poetry grabs my attention because of my own creative leaning, and secondly, in his autobiography William Carlos Williams said, “The longer I lived in my place, among the details of my life, the more I realised that these isolated observations and experiences needed pulling together to gain profundity.”

There is, I think, poetry even inside that quote, I mean how gorgeous is the inward looking concept of living among the details of one’s life? The very way of thinking in those worded terms seems to negotiate to that ‘other layer’ which all good poetry seems to possess. It says a lot about him I think, especially how he wrote in a small-detail way. Profundity seems to be something I also occasionally try to negotiate almost without realising it. (the concept of trying to be profound seems saturated with ego somehow, oops!) Perhaps my efforts are more like a journey though through my own self awareness. Maybe my own attempts at profundity is a way of sharing myself, I think it is probably, a passing-on of something. It would be nice to think my kids read my ‘profundity’ one day, although I’d probably have to throw in a free holiday to get them to read my poetry.

I digress, what matters is that reading books like this puts me a bit closer to the man, the poet and what he gave out to the world, his “details of my life”, his way of seeing. And that can only help my own growth and love of writing and reading poetry. I’ll give the last word on this post to the man himself, a quote from the book:

“It is a flower through which the wind
combs the whitened grass and a black dog

with yellow legs stands eating from a
garbage barrel. One petal goes eight blocks.

That’s only an extracted few lines of course, but I just love that sentence “One petal goes eight blocks”. It subconsciously connects me to the concept of a journey, and all living things are on a journey and within each journey are many other journeys. I do find even that short sentence lyrical. The word ‘petal’ is the only two syllable word in that sentence and in a creative writing sense, and a musical one too, I seem to focus on that word, it seems to gain strength from itself sitting within the monosyllabic rest.

So, there we are, me and my book, a rare find in a second hand bookshop with a bell that tinkles when you open the door, another lyrical note on my poetry journey. Nine quid well spent I reckon.

Cheers all…Neil

Exploring Narrative

Hello all poetry, music, sound and art lovers out there. This is a post about exploring narrative in its many forms. Many people tend to think of prose when mentioning narrative and it is not surprising when we consider that narrative is closely aligned to the art of story telling. Not far behind prose and sometimes hand in hand with it is poetry, where we see a vast amount of narrative writing that concentrates the prose into a different level of sensitivity we regard as poetic.

I believe another form of narrative is sourced from within music, classical music or instrumental music for example, or ambient music. This is where our own imagery supplies internal visual responses that are our own subconscious, our inner selves responding to sound alone, sometimes aided by the title of a piece which points us in a certain direction. Stories have the capacity to set scenes as do soundscapes and from these launch-pads it is possible to experience a sense of journey and wonder. Lyrics and sound combined also give us a clear narrative to follow, either through complete journeys or open ended phrasing.

It is this holistic sense of journey triggered by the various mediums which captivates me, and in sharing this blog I hope I’m reaching out to anyone out there who resonates with a need to explore.

One of the greatest conveyors of ‘places and people’ through narrative that I’ve come across is the much published poet and writer Sherry O’Keefe. I recommend reading her work and I think you will find a wonderful depth to her writing. She is a talented photographer too and the photographs themselves (that accompany some of her blogs) offer more than face value, frequently showing a brilliant sense of composition and often capturing an essence of the subject. The way she embraces narrative is to be acutely insightful, with an ability to deliver observation at a level exceeding simple prose. I hope you will follow this link and see for yourself how this marvellous contemporary writer weaves a magic spell through narration. The ancient art of story telling lives on.
http://www.toomuchaugust@wordpress.com
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Still exploring this theme of narration, I offer you three more links to explore, featuring three pieces of my own, each with a story to tell, each in it’s own way and I hope you will go on a different journey in each case.

This track is a soundscape called ‘Sun Rising On an Aztec Temple’.

This instrumental track is called Rosebud Blooming (actually about a woman going through a bitter separation )

This track of spoken word and music combined with my poetry is a dark piece.

I hope that you can listen and visit the links to explore the variety in terms of narrative, and here’s to you all in creativity, and especially your involvement with narration as a writer or reader, or indeed listener. Sincere thanks and best wishes. Neil