• West Cork Literary Festival 8-15 July 2022

Reading and Writing Poetry

Writing.ie | Guest Bloggers | Poetic Licence

Kate Dempsey

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Welcome to the first blog post of Poetic Licence. I have loads of ideas of thing to talk about: Poetry to read, to listen to, forms to try out, writing prompts, spoken word, events and competitions, anthologies and magazines, interviews etc etc. Any ideas and suggestions welcome.

This first post is about reading poetry. Do you write poetry? Do you write more poetry than you read?

I believe that in order to write good poetry, to enjoy writing and to gain confidence to try out new things, reading poetry is essential. And not just poetry, of course. Inspiration, like chocolate, comes in all shapes and sizes. I read novel and short stories, the weekend newspapers, the daily Metro, blogs, visit galleries and museums, watch good TV and films with a critical eye. even adverts. The words and images used in adverts are honed by creative and imaginative people. They are selling something, but in order to sell, you have to evoke some kind of an emotion, jealousy, greed, happiness, empathy. So too should poetry.

Back to reading. Variety is the key here. If you don’t read much poetry at all, I’d recommend starting with a generous anthology. For example “Staying Alive” Bloodaxe, edited Neil Astley is a real favourite of mine. You don’t have to spend loads of money. Try your local library. Swap books with your friends. Are you in a book club? Have you ever taken a poetry book as a choice? My mother’s book club has two people every month designated to bring a poem. I organised a poetry reading once where everyone had to bring a poem by a living poet as well as their own poems to read.

Read poetry written this decade. Living poets and living poetry magazines have a lot going for them and need your support. Reread poetry you learned in school. If it’s been a while, maybe you’ll read it with different eyes and different life experiences. Don’t limit yourself. Read Shakespeare and Wordsworth, Elizabeth Bishop and Emily Dickinson. Read Lewis Carroll and TS Eliot. Read the war poets. Google is your friend here. To name some of my favourite Irish poets, there’s Seamus Heaney (Famous Seamus), Denis O’Driscoll, Vona Groarke, Paul Muldoon, Theo Dorgan, Pat Ingoldsby, Derek Mahon, Paula Meehan and Patrick Kavanagh. I read and listen to a lot of British and North American poets too.

Buy some poetry magazines e.g. Poetry Ireland Review, The SHOp, The Stinging Fly. Go to poetry readings or spoken word events. There are some brilliant online resources where you can listen poets reading their own work. There’s YouTube of course (not always brilliant) but also The Poetry Archive. Have fun.

And when you find a poem (or TV show or song) that you enjoy, that speaks to you, try and work out why. And how the poet does it. Then write your own response.

Spelling Note: License (n) is chiefly North American so I’m sticking to the English.

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