Saturday 9 August 2008

Poetry: the art and craft of writing

Right: the Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage on the tiny island of Eilean Bàn, under the Skye Bridge, where Gavin Maxwell lived and wrote.

Like Sylvia Bardell, I enjoy poems about poetry, but I also recognize that with such masterpieces in mind as In my craft or sullen art by Dylan Thomas, it can be hard to write on this subject with an original and authoritative voice.

It would be interesting to know whether most of us love these 'poetry poems' or whether we would pass over them for others. Is it, perhaps, all down to which individual poems happen to speak to us, regardless of subject? I know Mary Biddinger, for one, is not keen on poems about poems.

I love to visit places associated with writers, and to see their desks and pens. Many modern writers scribble notes on till receipts; but how many of us still prefer to write our drafts in long-hand, thereby allowing our thoughts to flow from brain to arm to hand to paper - without interruption? I use notebooks (and till receipts) and a tiny dictaphone; but when it comes to writing a first draft, I love to sit at my computer. I may not watch for mermaids (which is what the Reverend R.S. Hawker of Morwenstow reputedly did on occasions when there were no shipwrecks); but I love to peer over my screen and to know that the sea is 'out there', with rhythms of its own.

Incidentally and in connection with Eilean Bàn, we remember Maxwell as a prose writer; but his title, Ring of Bright Water originated as a string of words in a poem, The Marriage of Psyche, by Kathleen Raine.

P.S. On the subject of writers' rooms (see comment by Susan Richardson below), how about a poem about a writer's drawer?


Susan Richardson said...

I love to visit places associated with writers too! And I've really enjoyed the photos and descriptions of Writers' Rooms in Saturday's 'Guardian' in recent months.

Caroline Gill said...

I have added a postscript to this: see comment on a writer's drawer (above).

Caroline Gill said...

I have just encountered the Ars Poetica site:

Susan Richardson said...

Re: the writer's drawer - I'm reminded of the metaphor Virginia Woolf used when describing her diary - she wanted it to be like a 'deep old desk or capacious holdall' into which she would throw a 'mass of odds and ends without sorting them through' (I think I've got the quote right!). Then she wanted to return to it some years later and find that everything had somehow managed to sort itself out while her back was turned...