Thanks to an Arvon 42 grant, I have just spent a week on an advanced poetry course at Totleigh Barton in Devon, tutored by Gwyneth Lewis and Tim Liardet. The focus was on ‘the evolving poem’, taking us through the process of writing a poem from first draft to final edit and addressing issues such as reinforcing meaning through punctuation, establishing the world (or geography) of the poem and how to tell when a poem is really finished.
I especially liked the idea that ‘all great novels have a poem in them that is trying to get out’ – ie; they are a great source for found poems or simply inspiration. A good piece of advice from Gwyneth was that I need to ask ‘why’ all the time in relation to my use of form, lines and language in my poems. This made me realise that I am too kind to my poems sometimes, and I need to work harder.
A visit by guest poet Glyn Maxwell was a highlight of the week, while a group reading on the final evening allowed us all to fully appreciate the journey that we and our poems had taken. I learnt so much from the other people on the course; the hosts at Arvon are also very congenial and the food was great. It was a shock to the system to have to deal with the outside world at the end of the week!
I really feel that my writing has moved on a step or two. The enforced absence of internet, phone signal, email and TV highlighted how much creative work I can accomplish away from the distractions of modern life. Get thee behind me, Facebook!!