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.

IMG_9230

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.

Advertisements

New Poem : Rosehips

Rosehips

When we were let out of the classroom,
I felt safer on the ground than in the firs,
where the others congregated like magpies
and cackled at the 7 year old outsider
with the big glasses and story books under her arm.

I busied myself among hedgerows and shrubs,
little fingers plucking rosehips, packing the pockets
of my hand-me-down wax jacket that forever smelt of silage.

The berries reminded me of my mother’s belly,
in the photographs where there was always too much sun.

I don’t remember who told me how to eat rosehips,
who told me to wait until the first frost,
until they’d frozen then thawed.
How then they’d be sweet and good to eat.

I don’t remember who told not to take
too many, because the birds needed them more.

I don’t remember who told me they’d keep me safe,
but I’d always put a couple under my pillow
to ward away the ghosts who’d
gather at my bedroom window.

New Poem : Death Rattle

Death Rattle

 
Years before my womb became a home,
I was told stories of the death rattle,
that it sounds like air blown through a straw
at the bottom of a glass of water.
Now, when my 9 year old
becomes hungry for air,
 
I wish I’d never been told.
 
In a little while she’ll know only night.
There will be no more mornings.
 
My 9 year old is sick right to the bone.
 
We talk about the donation of her eyes,
the only part not crossed out.
 
She isn’t scared of not having eyes.
She is scared of fire.
 
She leaves us in November,
when the frost first lingers beyond morning.
 
There was no rattle,
only the smallest, slightest sigh,
 
like when I used to catch her reading
when she should have been sleeping.
 
They take the eyes of my first born,
quietly, without fuss.
 
We keep her for a week,
turn off the heating, leave all the windows open.
 
I stroke the weak cage of her ribs,
the orb of her head, kiss her moon pale mouth,
her lavender face.
 
I talk about how she had to fight to be here,
how she left my womb already a warrior.
 
It takes several men to break the earth
in the woodland, it takes one bird
to sing her home.

New Poem : The Coming Of The Buck Moon

The Coming Of The Buck Moon

Slowly, slowly, slowly
the night is being released.

Darkness begins to creep
around the horizon, spreading rumours
of colder months to come.

We pretend not to see the dark,
not to hear its whispers.

We celebrate the midway point
between planting our food
and harvesting it.

We pluck, share and sip honeysuckle
flowers with lovers.

We’re moving out from under
this strawberry moon.

Soon, the buck moon will hang.
Antlers worn by the princes of the forest
will be in full growth and smothered in velvet.

They will bleed in time with the falling of the leaves.

 

Collaboration With Cult Of Slaves

19105522_1396760677083892_8381444904674293273_n

So I have been writing poetry since the early 90’s, yet I’ve never seriously attempted to write song lyrics. So, it came as something of a shock when Folk Noire group Cult of Slaves sent a nudge my way, asking if I’d be interested in collaborating on their upcoming EP ‘She Wouldn’t Die.’

Holy Friday! Cult of Slaves announces collaboration with author and photographer Katie Metcalfe and partner Hravn Decmiester, songwriter and vocalist in the Borås, Sweden-based black metal band RIMFROST. Cult of Slaves‘ forthcoming EP “She Wouldn’t Die” (Sep/Oct 2017) will come with jointly written lyrics, poetry and artwork. – Cult Of Slaves

I agreed so long as I could have my partner in love and crime by my side. The difference with me and my man is that he’s actually been writing songs – and getting paid for them – for over a dozen years. I felt I’d be better equipped to face the task with him by my side. Thank fuck he agreed, and I’m going into this collaboration less scared shitless, and more eager about what storms we are going to conjure.

 

 

Today’s Poem : When I Am With Child

When I Am With Child

When I am with child,
there’s a chance I’ll suckle icicles,
binge on beach combed glass,
chew the ends of my hair.

My uterus will wax from
the size of a snowball to a pumpkin.

The egg my child will form from
will be the same size as what sits
in a rabbit’s or a whale’s body
at the beginning.

I may lactate
if I hear the rattling sound
of a baby crying.

By the 20th week
my body will be warm
with 50% more blood
than before conception.

My heart will swell
to accommodate
the increase.

I will not be burned at the stake
if I ask for pain relief.

I will not be told
I need to feel the pain
for Eve’s actions
in the Garden of Eden.

When I deliver,
my pelvic bone will part
in the middle
and the cartilage
will never really go back together.

Today’s Poem : The Behaviour Of Ice

The Behaviour Of Ice

In the Arctic, Inuit elders
only drink water from icebergs.

Their taste buds are not adjusted
to chlorine.

The light in the north
is never simple.

The Aurora Borealis
are ancestors playing with a walrus skull.

Children not yet born.

A gift from the dead
to the living.

In the Arctic, ravens bark like dogs.

You remember the eyes
of every seal wounded,
every seal slaughtered.

You remember every smudge
of every baby whale
being swallowed up by the tide,

you remember every mothers final song.

You must know how ice behaves
in the Arctic, and speak cautiously of the cold,
for it is always listening.

 

Today’s Poem : The Terrible Warmth

The Terrible Warmth

Antarctica, the vast glacial continent,

is melting differently to the Arctic.

 

Warm sea water is hauled under the ice,

where it doesn’t drain back out.

 

The melting will, without mercy,

alter the maps of the world.

 

On the day we watched our environment

keel under the weight of one man’s word,

the growing crack in the Arctic shelf roared.

 

The sound is travelling to us

by way of the sea.

 

To die is said to be like

that you’re left with a field of whiteness,

before nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s Poem : Speak Your Hurts

Speak Your Hurts

Underneath the constellation
of the Great She-Bear, one of the largest
in the night sky, Ursus Maritimus is overheating.

The Ever Wandering One used to be
the most powerful helping spirits
for the shaman of the north lands.

Before missionaries.
Before shamans were accused
of being in league with Satan
out there on the ice.

When a cub is born,
he fits into his mother’s paw.

In the north, it’s so quiet you can hear
your internal sounds, the rivers of your blood
the trembling mountain of your heart.

The Inuit say you ought to speak your hurts,
before they’re iced in, before they’re frozen
to your soul.