So, today I entered my first poetry competition. It cost £1 to enter and is not going to make me famous. But it did make me feel a little bit like a ‘proper’ poet.
I’ve been writing poetry on an off for years – though much more off than on. Yesterday I was tidying the box room that contains my desk and a forest full of papers, and I spent an illuminating half hour flicking through my old writing notebooks. I found half-finished poems there that really surprised me. They weren’t going to make Faber & Faber hammer at my door with a contract, but they weren’t that bad either. Most of them looked salvageable with some rethinking and a bit of work.
It just shows how important it is not to tear up a poem that you can’t get to work there and then. Instead, shove it into a box to be rediscovered later when you’ve distanced yourself from the poem, or from the catalyst for writing it. Then you can look again at the muddle of words and ask what do I want this poem to say? What do I want readers to feel? What is it that just isn’t working?
And they’re a great fall-back for those days when the Muse has called in sick. An hour or two tinkering with a poem can feel just as rewarding as writing one from scratch.
I’m not holding my breath for the announcement that I have won that poetry competition. But perhaps I don’t need to win something to feel like a ‘proper’ poet. I just need to keep creating poems.