I am always amazed by the writing process. I often wonder how the things I write appear on the page. The metaphors for writing are endless: Seamus Heaney’s digging in his poem of that name; manipulating an old-fashioned telephone exchange suggested by Frank Smith in his book, Writing and the Writer; discovery and exploration explained by Vernon Scannell in a 1970s English text book.
Before you start there’s nothing except for some thoughts whirling in your head, but when you’ve finished there’s a poem, a narrative, a plot, characters you didn’t know you knew, a story, a poem, a new world that you didn’t know existed!
Many of my poems give a voice to someone from the past. My first degree was in History so historical subjects have always interested me. Sometimes I look for a voice in a painting or sculpture, perhaps the artist’s, or a suggested narrative. I like my poems to be anchored in time and space through the voice, whether it’s mine or someone else’s. In that way a poem is like a photograph. Here are two stanzas from a poem in the voice of Edward Elgar describing the incident with his friend George Sinclair’s dog Dan which is depicted in one of the Enigma Variations:
From Elgar’s D-O-G in The Same Country
We walk the banks of the Wye, George thinks organs,
I am planning something orchestral. Dan is dreaming
riverbank mud, the smell of decaying bulrushes, when
splash, Dan’s in the river, tumbled head-over-paws.
Dan rights himself, struggles upstream, paddling
to keep up with out laughter. He leaps to the bank,
barking at the moorhens, shaking the water off
his wet coat: “Set that to music,” says George.