Losing My (Poetry) Virginity





I was a virgin until last night.

There, that got your attention. It’s also a shameless ruse to bring traffic to my blog; well, if it’s good enough for the tabloids…

But I was a virgin; a poetry virgin.

The theme for my creative writing class yesterday was poetry. Clearly, there’s a limit to how much ground you can cover in only two hours, and I wasn’t expecting to learn about every aspect of poetry in such a short space of time. I wasn’t even expecting to graze the surface. But then again, I wasn’t expecting to come away having written my first ever poem; but I did.poetry

Sensibly, the tutor concentrated on aspects of writing poetry which can also be useful to the prose writer, and how these writer’s tricks can improve all of our efforts.

We were asked to find, and bring in, a short piece of poetry or prose which had influenced us, or which we had found particularly inspiring, and to concentrate on the sound qualities of the writing. Oddly, I found even this simple task rather difficult. Short of re-reading every book I own to find a suitable passage,(and being short on time, this wasn’t a sensible or achievable option), I decided to simply choose something from the book I’m currently reading. As luck would have it Mrs Dalloway is crammed with beautifully poetic prose. I have always struggled with Virginia Woolf, but having determined to read this novel in two sittings, (and these need to be daytime sittings: a novel with no chapter divisions, a stream of consciousness, requires proper concentration; my day-weary bedtime reading frequently lasts only ten minutes before my book drops to the floor as my eyelids droop south), I succeeded in completing her masterpiece. It is, and I rarely say this, a work of genius, and furnished me with the necessary example of a piece of writing with interesting sound qualities.

The class read their various selections, which ranged wonderfully from Sappho to Carol Ann Duffy, via Dave Eggers, Gerard Manley Hopkins and, of course, Ms Woolf.

It was refreshing, and interesting, to hear how such varied writers use language, rhythm and words to create atmosphere and emotion. It was also an instructive way of introducing the poetry novice (me) to aspects of writing verse or poetic prose. We spent some time discussing use of alliteration, assonance and repetition in writing, using further examples to illustrate how each can be used effectively. alliterationI have always been reluctant to dissect writing like this, but as I found out last week, it’s entirely necessary to the study of how successful writers write successfully. This week, I found that I enjoyed the task even more. I think because I’ve never really tried my hand at poetry (I’ll be honest: I’m a touch in awe of poets) I’m really keen to understand how they go about their art.

Throughout the session, I was aware that the class would culminate in being asked to write a poem. It was a moment I had been, if not dreading, then nervously anticipating; and my previous weeks’ efforts at on-the-spot writing hadn’t been entirely satisfying. The tutor offered us two wildly different types of poem (although by the same poet) to use as inspiration: the first was a series of words depicting colours; a poetic roll-call of paint shades, formed into carefully constructed stanzas. This poem, titled ‘Colours’ by Georges Szirtes, makes full and glorious use of alliteration, assonance, musicality and goodness knows what else to astonishing effect. The second Szirtes poem was ‘We Love Life Whenever We Can’. Following a more conventional (to me, at least) form, the poet reuses the title line repeatedly throughout the poem. There’s a lot more than that going on here, (surprising punctuation, unexpected line breaks, varied sentence length), but it was this feature I decided to try and emulate for my attempt.

For two terrifying seconds I had no idea where to start, but then decided to latch on to the very first thing that came to mind and just write it down. This then became my repeating phrase: ‘If you ever get the chance.’ I don’t know if it was the convivial atmosphere in the room, or the inspiration from having heard so many great pieces of writing, but I suddenly found myself writing fluently. Before I was aware of what I was doing, I’d given birth to a poem, fully formed and crying to be read. So read it  I did. To the class. It may not be a Carol Ann Duffy or a Manley Hopkins, but I am, never the less, proud of my effort. I was thrilled when my fellow students and tutor made encouraging comments. Actually, the tutor said I looked shocked. I was. Shocked to have written my first poem.

It’s the least I can do to reproduce it for you here. I have made no changes; what you read is what I wrote last night. Kindly comments will sooth. Constructive comments will improve.


If You Ever Get The Chance


If you ever get the chance

stop awhile and stare.

If you ever get the chance

linger there and take a look.

If the lights are on I don’t mind you peeping

toms can sometimes be excused.

If you ever get the chance

rest your limbs and slowly regard.

If you ever get the chance

wait outside to keep your watch.

If the lights are off shine a torch

songs always make me cry.

If you ever get the chance

ring the bell for your return.

If you ever get the chance.

© flyingscribbler 2013



One comment on “Losing My (Poetry) Virginity

  1. adampb says:

    Great to hear you’re enjoying your course and exploring new ways of writing. This month a few of us have been engaging in #postitnotepoetry, with permission to write really dodgy poetry. It’s very liberating.
    I’ve collated mine here: http://afullnessinbrevity.wordpress.com/post-it-note-poetry/
    Keep going with the course and I hope it brings great reward.
    Adam B @revhappiness

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