Poetry and telling your story
Everybody- everybody– has a story to tell. You need only look at the popularity of something like Humans of New York (in which anonymous, random people on the street are encouraged to share their stories) to realise this. People have stories to tell, and other people want to hear them.
Too often, we shrug our own stories aside- they’re not interesting enough, or not important enough, to be the stuff of poetry. We convince ourselves that poetry is not made out of lives like ours. I don’t believe that this is true.
Remember the last time you were on your way home from the shops and saw something funny. Remember that feeling of bursting to tell someone about it. Remember how you told them about it and remember how they laughed. That is how poetry works- an urge to tell, followed by a moment of recognition. To write a poem is to share something of yourself, and that can be daunting. So how do we do it?
Start small: if you are daunted by the prospect of telling your story- maybe it feels too personal, or too raw- start with something small. A writing prompt I was once given at a Southbank Poetry workshop was: The first time I… Write about the first time you did something. It can be something that seems insignificant, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a story to it.
Dance like no-one’s watching: pretend that your poem is going to be published, but it will be entirely anonymous, with absolutely no way of anyone tracing it back to you. Think about who you want it to reach, who might benefit from hearing it. How would you write it now? (and remember, you actually can have work published anonymously!)
Write like stained glass: in other words, a poem doesn’t have to tell the whole story. A poem can be a simple fragment that makes up part of the whole, like a single piece of stained glass that connects with the rest of the picture. You might want to write a sequence of poems that tell a longer story, but a poem can rest entirely in one moment, and that moment might speak more than years.
Use all the advice and prompts you’ve been given in this series- use sound, use your senses, use mindfulness- and see what comes up for you. And remember as you write, that there are people out there- maybe hundreds of people- just waiting for a story (a poem) like yours.
Blog written by Becky Balfourth