Thursday, August 09, 2007

W S Graham

So I've been doing these pointless poetry exercises for a week now, carefully following the injunction to write the poems from the first lines provided without looking at the originals.

This morning I looked at the originals - each of the ten opening lines come from poems by W S Graham. I shouldn't have done it. I can see now how juvenile and stupid my pointless poetry exercises look in comparison to the originals. Of course I knew this would happen: an opening line is generated by the poet who has a very good understanding of how they want to use that line as part of the rest of the poem; whereas the Guardian unlimited workshop is just asking a writer to take a first line and run with it. The end result is, necessarily, shoddy - a tacked on thing, a dangling misrepresentation rather than an innovative reinterpretation.

Now I can't bear to look at my pointless poetry attempts; I shan't be writing any more. Instead, some links to a few of the original poems:

The constructed space (Meanwhile surely there must be something to say)
I leave this at your ear
Imagine a forest
A beast in the space (Shut up. Shut up. There's nobody here)

And here's one I particularly loved:

Letter VI


  1. Oh dear...

    I have his New Collected Poems and have avoided looking at any of the poems during this exercise! And you now know why.

    But the reason I've linked is that you can get a brand new copy for just £4.99 - normal price is £16.99. You could waste five quid in all kinds of ways otherwise.

  2. Rik-

    I enjoyed reading your poems.

    You shouldn't sell yourself short, in terms of feeling discouraged by looking at the original poems.
    I felt(feel) that way when I was (am) reading some of Gluck's work, and other poets.

    But if we all wrote like everyone else there wouldn't be the great and wonderful variety of poetry that there is.

    Everyone has there own voice. There is so much to learn from from all the great writers.But you know that, and I don't want to sound all preachy.

    You are a strong writer.
    I particularly like what you've been doing with line breaks. I think my favorites were #1 for consistency of theme and originality of language as well as creative line breaks. A second favorite was #4. The imagery was so intense and real that a reader could imagine being in the location as one of the characters or looking on.

    Anyway, I'm sad that there's not a final poem, but I understand.

    Take care,

    (hope this didn't sound all dumb and stuff)