“We are blind and live our blind lives in blindness. Poets are damned but they are not blind, they see with the eyes of angels” – William Carlos Williams
There are two things I believe makes a good poem a great poem: 1. it has to be read out loud and 2. it has to be heard, not just listened to, really heard by whoever’s in the room, even if this is just the person reading it out. Poetry, unlike prose, relies not only on the words but on the structure of the piece. Every line break, every stanza, every pause for breath, every piece of punctuation (or lack of), contributes to the jigsaw. Writing simple poems, like acrostics and rhyming couplets, is one of the first creative writing tasks children are given in school leading them to understand that poems have to rhyme. Poems have to have x amount of lines. Poems have to have x amount of syllables etc. Where really the reverse is the case, every poem like every building has to have some sort of structure but really the poet and the architect and add to, subtract from and blur this structure as much as they want.
At Lancaster there’s a small community of writers that meet every other week in Costa Coffee to share some poems, have a coffee then wind away the rest of the evening in Bowland bar. I’ve recently started writing poems again and in part this is thanks to hearing other people’s work being read out loud in that supportive community, a single word or turn of phrase and spark a poem that stretches over pages and pages. I don’t pretend to be a good poet, I wouldn’t even pretend to be a poet, but I try. And I love the sense of community that poetry instills, the emotion and connection that can come with a great reading.
Revision has had me disenchanted with literature recently, learning quotes by heart and dissecting a book down to its base themes sucks the life out of stories but writing, hearing and sharing poems puts the dynamism back into literature.
The next poetry cafe is taking place in Costa coffee on Campus, 24th of May 7pm