How I Write A Poem

Research has formed an integral part of my poetry writing process for as long as I can remember. One of my first poems was written after watching a documentary with my Nanna about wolves in Yellowstone Park – I was under double figures. The older I get, the more madly curious I become, and the bigger the role research plays in my creative works.

Too many people I’ve met over the years have been afraid of writing poetry. Any potential passion sabotaged by overly strict English teachers, who’d long forgotten that joy can be found in the poetic word.

I’ve held workshops with people – youngsters and adults – who’d never dreamed of attempting to create their own poem. Primarily because of their horribly negative experiences at school. Many of them also thought poetry to be ‘fucking boring,’ ‘for posh people’ or ‘just too bloody difficult.’

Hearing my students openly express their disdain made me all the more determined to show them that penning poetry can be a life-enhancing experience, one that can enable you to not only better understand the world, but develop a greater ability to reap the joy in living.

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I Start With Looking For Inspiration

I have been, for the past few months, using Google Alerts for gathering poetry inspiration. I signed up to receive emails from Google and whenever stories of interest are published, they’re sent straight to my email inbox. For example, I ask for all blog posts/news items on Witchcraft, The Arctic and The Moon, to name but a few.

I didn’t know that today I was going to be writing a poem about witchcraft. You see what I do is I’ll go through my mails, from newest to oldest, and jot down anything that claws at my interest.

It was after I’d read an article about the Black Moon, and a piece about a woman who called herself a Hearth Witch, and described the term in great detail, that everything started to fall into place and I knew what I was going to write about.

There was something that she wrote, about becoming more family orientated, which had me thinking about what it would be like for a Hearth Witch give birth…we’re trying for a baby at the moment, so motherhood is often on my mind!

Then I’ll Do My Research

For this poem, I did a little bit more reading into the Black Moon via The Old Farmer’s Almanac and re-read the piece I mentioned earlier. (I note everything down in the notebook I’m currently using. I don’t care about it being neat so long as I can read it. The most important thing is getting the stuff down.)

I use Random Word for almost every single poem I write, and for this poem I jotted down at least 4 pages of random words which I felt could be weaved in. It’s inevitable that new ideas are formed at the sight of particular words too…

The Writing Begins When I Feel I’ve Gathered Enough Research Material And Odd Words

Once I have some form of scruffy draft in my notebook – more often than not it’s just the first two stanzas – I open  up Microsoft Word, put everything down and start spinning the piece together.

I usually spend an hour on a first draft, then half an hour to an hour altering and adapting. It’s very rare that I’ll leave a poem unfinished to work on the day after.

It’s usually the last stanza which I have trouble with in a poem, and Hearth Witch is no exception.

Then Comes The Posting

I’m working on a new poetry collection at the moment, but I like to gauge the reaction from people about the pieces I’m creating, so I’ll post my ‘final’ draft on Facebook and A Living Witch.

It’s when I do this that grammar and spelling mistakes, as well as shitty words and placements glare up at me…I feel momentarily humiliated – there are countless poets on Facebook whom I respect and I want to give my readers only the best of my words –  but it’s worth this momentary shock to the system, as I can shuffle what needs to be shuffled and re-imagine what must be re-imagined.

Below is the finished result of today’s workings. I feel really strongly that I’m going to return to this one…that there is still more to say.

Hearth Witch (Before Facebook)

There was a black moon rising

the night you were born to me,

 

the night I came in from the forest

where I’d skinned seven rabbits.

 

Their eyes became cold as glass,

while my waters gathered around

my thistle scratched ankles,

nettle stung toes.

 

I still had their blood under my nails

when you slid out from between my legs

in front of the fire made with the wood

chopped by your father the day before he left.

 

I wrapped you in three pelts, quickly sewn

together with thread of cow eyelashes,

and pressed you against my leaking breast,

while I wrapped our placenta in brown paper,

and put it on ice to fry the following morning.

 

Suddenly, my mixing spoon became as powerful

as my broom.

 

In time, when you were old enough

to come from the breast,

 

I combined foraged mushrooms

with my milk, fed you from my

second and fore fingers.

 

I taught you to capture the sun,

as if can give you untold strength for days.

 

I taught you that it was good to always

come back with something from the forest

a broken sparrows egg, a rabbit skull, owl pellets

to pull apart and examine and taste.

 

When you started to bleed,

I told you to send your questions

to the moon, and to listen for her reply

coming down through the trees.

 

Hearth Witch (After Facebook)

 

There was a black moon rising

the night you were born to me,

 

the night I came in from the forest

where I’d skinned seven rabbits.

 

Their eyes became cold as glass,

while my waters gathered around

my thistle scratched ankles,

nettle stung toes.

 

I still had their blood under my nails

when you slid out between my legs

in front of the fire made with wood

chopped by your father the day before he left.

 

I wrapped you in three pelts, quickly sewn

together with thread of cow eyelashes,

and pressed you against my leaking breast,

while I placed our placenta in brown paper,

and put it on ice to fry the following morning.

 

Suddenly, my mixing spoon became as powerful

as my broom.

 

In time, when you were old enough

to come from the breast,

I combined foraged mushrooms

with my milk, fed you using my

second and fore fingers.

 

I taught you to capture the sun,

as if can give you untold strength for days.

 

I taught you that it was good to always

come back with something from the forest

a broken sparrows egg, a rabbit skull, owl pellets

to pull apart and examine and taste.

 

When you started to bleed,

I told you to give your questions

to the moon, and to listen for her reply

coming down through the trees.

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