Category Archives: Thoughts On Poetry

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.
You may have to copy and paste the above link into your browser as it hasn’t highlighted.

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