Sandra Gordon, near neighbour and local poet, has recently performed some of her poetry at the New Forest Folk Festival as part of the Lines and Squares Poets.
She has also received the exciting news her work will be published in The North magazine in July.
The North is an established poetry magazine and being accepted for publication here is a huge achievement. I also think standing up on stage in front of hundreds of people and performing poetry is a brave thing to do! And she has written poetry for Chandler’s Ford Today too, which will resonate with most dog owners…
I like poetry. I love listening to Roger McGough on Radio 4’s Poetry Please. I have a soft spot for nonsense verse and limericks (which will probably make serious poets wince but I argue it is a good way into poetry overall. I also adore listening to John Hegley and Pam Ayres whose poem Nobody Loves a Fairy When She’s Forty resonates with my fairy tale writing!).
I have occasionally written poetry and my Not the Way to Go (my take on the Wizard of Oz story) is published online at Scriggler. com (an American based website encouraging the showcasing of work).
But I could not write poetry all the time. There is a discipline to it, which does not come naturally to me. I find it far easier to blog and write fiction where I don’t have to worry about whether to rhyme or not, have I got my metre right, have I used the right format for this particular work and so on.
With short story writing, you are either writing a standard story (word counts of about 1500, sometimes up to 5000) or flash fiction (word counts usually under 750 words and often lower). But those are the rules and that’s it. (Presentation formats of 12 point Times New Roman/Arial, double line spacing etc are standard whatever kind of short story you write).
Poetry is about images in the mind. Short stories, while conjuring up images, are about a moment of change in a character’s life. And some of our most famous images in fiction come from poetry.
There are more rules to poetry. There are more formats to poetry. Then there’s the decision to stick to “traditional” poetry or whether to write free verse). So I thought with her recent good news, it would be a great opportunity to ask Sandra a few questions and to shed some light on what the writing life is like as a poet.
1. Why write poetry? What drew you to this rather than prose?
Well, prose drew me to poetry. Like many, I’ve always thought I could write a book. So in 2011, I enrolled to do a Creative Writing Course with the Open University. I’d already completed a degree with them so knew I’d be getting quality material to study.
When studying the poetry section I became hooked. At that time I didn’t know exactly what poetry was or how to write it but I fell in love with reading it and trying to write it. I couldn’t get enough. A huge help for me was reading the trilogy of Bloodaxe books, Staying Alive, Being Alive and Being Human, edited by Neil Astley.
2. Who is your favourite classic poet and why?
Now there’s a question. I’m still learning and this answer could be different in six months time. But for now I could say a favourite classic poet is Walt Whitman…or Robert Frost, though not sure he’s classified as Classic just yet. It’s so difficult to choose an absolute favourite.
Allison: I’ve included two further links for Walt Whitman and Robert Frost here as both help readers to explore their poetry further. The second one for Robert Frost has “poem hunter” as part of the title, which in itself is a great image!
3. Who is your favourite modern poet and why?
Modern poets are wonderful to explore. There are so many. Choosing a favourite modern poet is difficult too. I love Elizabeth Bishop, (not quite classic or absolute modern) John Burnside, Gillian Clarke, Abigail Parry. I’ll stop there. The list could go on.
Allison: I’ve included a link to one of Elizabeth Bishop’s poems, Filling Station. The images conjured up by this are great. Hope you enjoy it. I did. Discovering the Poetry Foundation website (which I’ve linked to on most of the names above) has been a revelation. I highly recommend investigating it. Each poet has a biography and from their page you can read some of their work. I really enjoyed this.
4. What do you think the role of poetry is?
Oh now, there’s a question. Poetry appears at important times doesn’t it? Difficult times, happy times. Funerals. Being in love. When you feel desperately sad. Poetry can be very powerful. Poetry makes you think. Poetry can make you face a truth whether you want to or not. A good poem should stop you in your tracks, beg you to read it again and again, read it out loud and each time you read it you see or hear something new.
Allison: I think the war poets are a great example of this. See the link, which gives a wealth of information including brief biographies on the major war poets plus samples of their work. I also include a link to the page about Rupert Brooke. It is difficult not to be moved by The Soldier.
5. Tough question I know but name your three favourite poems. Have deliberately limited to three! Why pick these?
That is very difficult. And again, this could be different in a few months time.
(a) Miracle on St. David’s Day by Gillian Clarke
(b) One art by Elizabeth Bishop
(c) The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry
6. I know you’ve become a huge fan of ladies’ golf and indeed play yourself. Do you find being on the golf course helps with your writing in that it gives you thinking time say? I find swimming helps clear my mind and then makes me start thinking about what I am writing, what I’ll be doing next and so on and find this immensely helpful.
I have to try not to think about poetry on the golf course. Golf needs 100% focus.
If a poem tries to appear, the golf goes downhill big time. I can remember clearly when I told myself both don’t mix. It was on the 17th green and I needed to make the putt. Two crows were on the edge of the green bashing the ground with their thick, bone like beaks. Their beaks looked like swords and I started to compose a poem there and then…I missed that putt!
Allison: Many thanks, Sandra, for sharing your poetry life with us. Part 2 of my interview with Sandra will appear next week where she shares tips for aspiring poets and her thoughts on the importance of editing. Now that’s something every writer will identify with!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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