Sunday, 16 December 2007

Poem for Christmas

A Warwickshire Christmas

Black seam of tarmac glittering hard
with ice, a million points of light,
and our loud boots cracking over it,
tramping to church down country lanes
starred white with frost
or to shops, brilliant with tinsel,
to buy gifts for the infant,
holly for the wise, and head home,
arm in arm, under velvet skies.

Children go about red-cheeked
in the wind, wild as robins.
The sick, in their hospital beds,
fumble for cheer which comes hard,
suddenly rich with angels
and fruitcake for Christmas.
Chill streets ring with boots and bells
and far-off voices raised in song
for those born and dying.

And that boy in the doorway
is no longer a shadow as the carol passes,
telling of peace and Bethlehem,
fire and ice and mulled wine.
They’re lit up by starlight, those we ignore
in the dark of winter, the outcast
and frightened, the sick and the poor.
Shops close. A star is rising.
Pin up your holly and open the door.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Some Quick Tips for Writing Poems

Recently, I've been asked to produce a few tips on 'How To Write Poetry'.

That's another social role for a Poet Laureate: spreading the word about poetry as widely as possible. It's rather like being an ambassador (though without the posh dinners, perhaps fortunately for my waistline) where what I say reflects on poetry as a whole. So I always try to give the same good advice I was given as a beginner.

1. Be yourself.
2. Keep things simple.
3. Rewrite everything.
4. Speak your poem aloud as you write.
5. Make sure the line-breaks fall where you either pause naturally or for emphasis.
6. Only write about things that really matter to you.

Over the next month or maybe longer, I'll be trying a series of online workshop exercises at my other blog, Raw Light, chiefly aimed at those with some experience of writing poetry but who are perhaps still unpublished in book form.

If you'd like to try your hand at a poetry exercise or two over there, I'd be happy to discuss the results with you.

Don't forget, you can still send poems to me here or leave them in the Comment box below, for possible future publication on this blog.

What does it mean to be Poet Laureate?

People often ask me: 'What does it mean to be Poet Laureate?'

Usually they want to know what I'll be doing as the new Laureate for Warwick. But sometimes they're interested in how I see the role of a Poet Laureate, why I put my work forward to be considered in the first place.

The two answers are connected. As a Poet Laureate, one of my responsibilities over the next year is to produce poetry about the region and to encourage others to do the same. And that's how I see the role of a Laureate. I see it very much as a social role, someone who acts as a mediator between the people and poetry. Which is what attracted me to the post.

I see the Laureateship as a good way to introduce new people to poetry, and to use poetry to help people. That can be a therapeutic help, encouraging people to write about their problems and so perhaps come to terms with those problems a little better. Or it can be about fun and creativity, getting adults back in touch with what some might call their 'inner child'!

The Laureateship is also about giving added emphasis to poetry on the National Curriculum, by going into schools for workshops or by helping kids with poetry and performance during poetry-related activities outside school.