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The key to writing better poetry is …

Saw a tweet about the new Arvon course list for 2012 being up. So couldn’t resist taking a look.

I’m going through this thing at the moment where I feel a desperate need for some sort of mentoring, or at least workshopping, with better poets than myself. Better writers, more experienced… I guess I don’t necessarily define ‘better’ in terms of recognition or success, but of course that’s part of it.

But it’s funny, sometimes, when I meet someone in a poetry setting, I get an immediate feeling that they’re ‘good’ – it’s hard to describe really, but I get a little ‘ping’, a lightbulb moment I suppose.

I can think of three people who’ve given me this feeling in the last few years. But I’m too shy to name them right now 🙂 The point is, they’re not all obvious candidates for the ‘lightbulb moment’. And I’ve come across many others who you’d think would qualify, but don’t.

It’s probably nothing to do with poetry wisdom or anything. Just a spark, a perceived (and possible one-sided) rapport.

Anyway, the Arvon courses that jumped out at me were a week on ‘Advanced Poetry’ with Carol Ann Duffy (quality-controlled entry, which I like) – but it’s a) in Scotland and b) overlapping with family holiday (already booked) …. a week in Devon with Mimi Khalvati and Sean O’Brien (I think… if I remember that correctly) – I haven’t yet been able to infiltrate the Lewes Live Lit monthly workshops with Mimi Khalvati, something that frustrates me NO END – and the idea of travelling to darkest Devon JUST to get into a workshop with her, when I can’t do so in my HOME TOWN, seems deliciously perverse.

And then there’s the possibility of a week with Don Paterson, albeit a ‘fiction and poetry’ week, when fiction interests me not one iota…. but Don Paterson? Oh my. Don. Paterson.

So I probably won’t be shelling out my £650 this year to the Arvon Foundation. And anyway, all these courses…. they’re a business, right? Just how many courses have the successful poets actually been on, at least, those who’ve been plying their trade since before the MA Creative Writing boom?

Isn’t writing better poetry down to reading good poetry, attempting to write stuff that’s as good, and practising again and again?

Published inAngstCoursesWorkshoppingWriting

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Robin Houghton 2021