You can begin to write poetry at any time. Very often those taking pen in hand are referred to as ‘new’ or ‘young’ writers. Such terms can be off-putting. People begin to write when they can no longer resist the urge not to, or when they can find the time to do so. For many this can be after they have raised a family, retired from a demanding job or when domestic arrangements allow. ‘Emerging’ seems to be the best term to describe those who are beginning to grapple with the craft of writing.
Once you’ve begun to write poems: what next? My advice is to join a workshop. A workshop is a good platform for first presenting work and feedback can be helpful. However, it sometimes happens that workshop criticism can be ill-informed and can do more harm than good. But sharing your work with others involved in the business makes more sense than sharing it with a granny or spouse who have no experience of critical analysis. Show it to these when it has been polished – they’re your readers and supporters. Finally, when you’ve found your voice, you will know whether your poem works or not but, even then, a workshop can be a useful forum for testing the waters before reading to a wider audience. A peer group will also provide you with friendship and support; it will enable you to exchange information about writing opportunities and competition details.
Study the market: read poetry journals before submitting your work; check your style of poetry against that favoured by the editor – if s/he likes nature poetry that rhymes and you specialise in free-form urban poetry, don’t waste your paper and postage. Poetry journals such as the Poetry Ireland Review, Cyphers and THE SHOp are a good place to start. As you become more confident, enter competitions, many of which are listed in the Poetry Ireland Newsletter. When you have completed a collection, submit it to a publisher – by then you will be familiar with the main poetry publishers in Ireland and the UK.