Ten Years Learning How To Be A Poet – Part Five: How To Write About Real Life In Poetry

Writers often take inspiration from real life. A lot of my poetry draws on points, and people from history, as well as members of my own family. Some of those poems can be incredibly personal, not only the ones specifically about myself. I’ve written about my mother shaving her legs, the death of certain family members, friendships breaking down, and assault. I’m very lucky when it comes to those close to me, as they don’t take issue with me mining my life (and in turn their own) for inspiration. However, it still raises the question of how personal is too personal, and at what point (if at any point) does a poet cross the line about what they should or shouldn’t write about?

There’s a piece of writing advice, “write what you know”, which has been taken further in recent years to ‘don’t write outside your own lived experience’. There are (of course) exceptions when it comes to fiction, fantasy being a clear example. Writing what you know becomes redundant in the sense that none of us knows how magic works, or what goes on in a world carried about by a great, cosmic turtle. Fantasy, and pushing the boundaries of the known go hand in hand, but there is a difference between creating a detailed, anatomical description for the new race of gnomes you’ve invented, and writing a novel from the perspective of a person who has lived a life utterly removed from your own. For the sake of this post, I will not be going into my thoughts on the issues regarding writing in the voice of a different race/genre/class, that isn’t the post I set out to write. What I want to talk about is weighing up how to use your own experiences in poetry, and how there is room to stretch a bit beyond those experiences when the poem calls for it.

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Speculative Fiction Prompt: March 2022

The first of March almost got away from me! While January dragged on, February seems to have vanished from beneath my feet before I could really get a grip on the month. We had a slight increase in the number of participants for February, so I’ve got some reading to catch up on.

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Spring Washing – A Poem By Carol J Forrester

Today is the first day we have risked the washing line.
The sheets go out first,
pale faced in the morning brightness,
skirts scattering about wind born legs.
The sweaters are more resilient to such weather,
they slouch from their pegs
warming slowly 
arms raised like they are reaching
to pin themselves in place.
Caught by their knees, dresses fold over
hang like school children from trees
laughter in their fluttering. 
The garden becomes a gathering,
loud in their wet chatter.
Today is the first day we have risked a washing line,
hope goes out first. 

Franz Marc, Flatternde Wäsche im Wind (1906)

Sunday #Sketchbook – February Drawing Challenge

To improve my sketching speed and techniques, I’m attempting to sit down and draw every day in February. I missed Friday, and yesterday’s and today’s doodles are both on the same page but I’ve already created a lot more art than I normally would in a month. I’m aiming for as much range in the images as I can so if you have any suggestions for things that I could have a go at drawing, then please drop them in the comments below.

A large, corked, glass bottle, labelled poison, on a wooden surface in front of a misty landscape.

Speculative Fiction Prompt: February 2022

A large, corked, glass bottle, labelled poison, on a wooden surface in front of a misty landscape.

January is finally behind us! For a month that seemed to last forever, I’m not sure I actually managed to get much done. Ah well, new month, new opportunity to crack on and get some writing under my belt. The theme of this month’s speculative fiction prompt is Poison!

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