This is a guest post by Ann Perrin. Ann and I both attend a fortnightly poetry course in which we are introduced to poets, movements and styles, with the aim of improving our writing. The sessions also include writing exercises and about once a term each poet gets a chance to workshop a couple of poems with the group. The group started out with about 15 participants but it’s usually around 10. I’ve known Ann for a while, mainly from meeting her at poetry events in Brighton or at the Troubadour in London. She’s a great supporter of workshops, readings and open mics.
Our poetry course has an online forum, but it doesn’t get used very much. So when Ann posted this heartfelt piece I asked if I could reproduce it here. I think she brings up some interesting, if thorny questions: about writing poetry for a particular audience (or not), about ‘legitimacy’ in the poetry world, on competition (and competitions), even the uses of workshopping one’s work with relative strangers.
Ann asked these questions to the others in the group – but she’s happy with my opening it up and asking the lovely readers of this blog. Do please let us have your comments!
Over to Ann:
After our recent class in which I workshopped two poems with the group, I started thinking about potential audiences and who they might they be. I was also thinking how difficult it was to decide what to bring to the group. New work that I really felt unsure about which seemed a bit of a risk, or something I was a lot more sure about, had shown to a fellow poet, taken to a workshop or written on a much earlier course – after all, it was to be scrutinised by people who I really don’t know. Does anyone else think about such issues?
I also think about how one might fit into the modern poetry world. Do you write to be acceptable to a particular group, or poetry magazine? Do you look at pamphlets and ask yourself ‘might this or that editor be interested in my work?’ It seems to me in recent years poetry like other forms of creative writing has become a very competitive industry.
Do you go in for competitions? I’ve entered a few, sometimes at considerable expense. I was longlisted in two big ones in 2013 (isn’t everyone?) and managed to win a small local one. But recently I watched a person I know actually winning a pamphlet competition just as the publisher (who was due to publish the winner) was going out of business. So now I’ve decided to save my money!
I tend to subscribe to Charles Causley’s idea that poetry is ‘for everyone not just for the chosen few’. When I started to write poetry it was just for family and friends. More recently however, I sometimes I blog them, or even podcast a few and/or publish the odd leaflet to put into a local café. I have even self published a collection. However, even though I had some mentoring for this, I know this doesn’t make my book acceptable in the legitimate poetry world.
I was interested to learn this week that one of the big competitions has decided to accept poems that have been previously published on a blog. This feels like a welcome development and perhaps things like blogs, self publishing, video/film poems and so on may become the way to go in the future.
‘Real Poet’ luggage tag by Zazzle.