What do you write?

For the next few days, I’ll be posting responses to a questionnaire that I sent out to poets earlier this year. The poets who responded have shown that they are very engaged with writing about (or around) their communities and with their own writing processes.

Something I’ve discovered after writing poetry for a long time, is that it can be refreshing to diversify and try other genres, or collaborate with other artists. Last year, composer Pat Livingstone set a few of my poems to music, which helped me to think about how I read my own poems out loud.

Sometimes, taking on another project can reinforce your own commitment to writing. Poet Mavis Gulliver, who writes poetry and articles, recently made a commitment to make a small observation every day for the ‘river of stones’ project, and has discovered that one of her aims is ‘to do that every day…on and on forever’.

Collaborating with others, whether cross-disciplinary or in other fields, can also be fruitful.  Poet Juliet Wilson, author of ‘Unthinkable Skies’ has collaborated with a film maker on a film version of one of her poems, and with a musician to set some of her poetry to music.  Poet Chris Kinsey, author of ‘Kung Fu Lullabies’ and ‘Cure for a Crooked Smile’,  has written three plays: ‘Legless’ was shortlisted for production, while ‘Feathering the Dark’ and ‘I and I’ were given rehearsed readings.

Sometimes, rather than trying different projects, poets experiment within their chosen genre. Poet and artist Juli Jana, author of ‘Everybody needs a lunatic’, writes prose poetry and poetry. Poet Judith Blakemore-Lawton writes poems and children’s rhymes. 

While my collection ‘Centuries of Skin’ was being edited for publication last year, I completed the first draft of a novel, as I was too nervous with anticipation to continue writing poems during that time. Perhaps it’s only natural for writers to keep experimenting, whether in other genres, through collaborations, or within their chosen forms. This may well help them to keep writing.  Judith Blakemore-Lawton says that a few years ago she ‘certainly didn’t think of myself as a writer – if I thought about it at all.’  Mavis Gulliver says that a few years ago, ‘I hadn’t started writing articles and had only been writing poetry seriously for a couple of years’. Now she is published in many magazines, including Envoi and Reach.

Tomorrow we’ll be looking at: How do you start to write?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mavis Gulliver says:

    Interesting article Joanna – but oh! dear – I’m mortified that I said I’d make a small observation every day for ever. However, I do write every day, and when one small observation develops into a poem, working on that takes precedence over new observations. But you have given me a timely reminder that it’s a great way of focussing one’s mind, and I will endeavour to get back into the routine, so I’ll now go into the garden and find something else to write about.

  2. joannaezekiel says:

    Sorry you were mortified, Mavis! But if you answer the questions again in a year’s time, you might well give different answers- and I think the interesting thing about the writing process is that routines and plans often change, over time.

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