I am going to start this post with some advice: if you want to write good poetry find yourself a poetry group that offers you constructive feedback. You will note I say constructive feedback rather than criticism. Not interested in criticism, I give and want measured reflection on any poem. It is essential if you are to grow in any art form that you receive feedback; an accurate idea of when you are successful and when it doesn’t quite work.
In poetry there is wisdom to be gained from simply reading your work out loud to a group. Such situations change the way you hear the words. If you can get someone to read it aloud for you all the better, they will bring a different rhythm to your work. Note where they hesitate as they read, for that may need polishing, and where they alter the beat to breathe, this will give you insight into where you need to think about the punctuation.
This intimacy between people does not arrive overnight. Think of what Bruce Tuckman said in the 60’s about how groups function and be prepared to work at making the group effective. Model what you want by giving to others balanced, insightful feedback. You have to give to receive, it really is that simple.
Welcome to India
A plastic airplane with sky blue engines,
So similar to the one I’ve just spent eight hours on,
Is in his right hand, the left taps the window.
We wait to be allowed to move forward.
This is their one chance,
a regular, repeated opportunity to make money,
The driver waves him away.
I have two sons, fine boys sir, to make a man proud.
Outside there is a sale, crumpled brown notes
Come out of a lowered car window,
the boxed toy disappears inside.
One is still at school sir, but he will be a lawyer.
The lights change as
the scatterlings conclude their transaction.
The driver’s hand is heavy on the horn, again.
My eldest he is studying for a BSc.
The seller is slow, the car a glancing blow,
his hand is up, the car stops.
A BSc sir, he will be an electronics engineer
Making it to the central reservation, his eyes say everything,
Engineer is a good job sir, much respect.
I took the poem to a meeting of Juncture 25. As I wrote last post, I thought it was pretty much finished and in one way it was, but we spent about twenty minutes talking it through and it changed for the better because of that. Such assistance is invaluable.
So how do you find a group? The local library might know, or there may be a poster in an independent bookshop. You can ask at readings, you can talk to other poets. Or you can start your own. A word of advice here, read about teambuilding, this will give you an idea of what is happening, you need to be able to reflect on process if the group is to be successful. Gaie Huston’s The Little Red book of Groups is a very good place to start.
I am leaving you with some music. This is Annabelle Chvostek, and the good news is that she is touring the UK next month.