A Toolbox

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Dear Dot,

Renga – I hope not too depleted after last week’s energised post; that  your return will be proof of the sustainability of collaboration – yes. It builds on things we’ve spoken about: the uses of form, the good in writing prompts, and of having a time-scaffolding when living in a world full of distractions.

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Recycling Biro Ink

Dear Dot,

While looking for writing exercises for an earlier post, I found this on the prompts page of The Journal:

‘As an exercise, write a solo “renga”. (Not to argue the authenticity of a renga being written by two poets – not one)’

I was intrigued by the idea of a poetic form that was inherently collaborative, and it got me thinking about how our relationship, poetry-wise, has changed since we left university. Exchanging letters on poetry with you each week has helped keep my poetic theory developing, and made me examine my own practice, as well as preserving our friendship. But I miss the simpler, more directly creative sharing of poems as we wrote them, which we have done so much less of since living further apart, and I think is harder to do across distance than discussing theory. So I’ve been thinking of some ways we could set up dialogues about and through actual poetry, rather than just theory; exercises that would allow our voices and imaginations to feed each other, as can those of a physically present group of poets. Starting with renga, we could:

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Putting the Stuffing back with the Poetry Method!

Dear Dot

  Putting the stuffing back with the poetry method! Just now, a poem came out, onto the paper, in the form of a step (to me it was in the form of a step…). It shan’t be shared: would not bear all of those megabytes for sure. It came a week after your challenge to write about what a poem should be, and days after learning about the psychology of motivation. So I’m interested to reflect on what motivated it.

This picture came up amongst many others, on googling “Ian Finaly” in Google Images.

visual poetry

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Overcoming Distraction

Dear Dot,

Distraction

I’ve been enjoying my new adventurous approach to writing, working outside of home and trying out different locations. But, as my last post will have shown, there are challenges inherent in working in environments you can’t control. Although working away has been my way of escaping some unhelpful pressures and distractions that live at home, the outside world comes with its own distractions: noise, physical discomfort, other things to do/eat/buy that seem so much more attractive when you’re struggling with a poem.

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Poetic Sensibilities Got the Better of me…

Poetic Sensibilities got the better of me…

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So Dot, it’s been “one of those days”; the clash of deadline stress the back drop of rain. The seminar of the day seemed to take on the lecturer appearing to direct a spiel on incompetence straight at me. Next up was returning poetry books worth £16 of library fines; all this, having taken on the pillar of  the reading group I’ve been doing at the library leaving in disgust some days ago at us having a visitor and  reading too few poems, or something, and issues with my bathroom suite. Yes, poetic sensibilities got the better of me

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Making Space and Time to Write

Dear Dot,

It’s all very well my discoursing every two weeks on what poetry is and should be, but it doesn’t mean much unless I’m thoroughly testing and practicing what I preach. I suspect that my posts over the past year have been rather rootless and erratic, each one turning a different tiny annexe of writing practice into the key to poetry, or talking in the abstract about the nature of poetry without any particular experience from which to draw those ideas. While I’m proud that I managed to keep up bi-weekly blog posts throughout such a busy time, a more fundamental aspect of writing life fared less well: namely, regular writing time.

NPG

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Comfort v. Challenge

Dear Dot,

Re: Poetry is Such a Comfort!

Comfort v. Challenge

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Your last post warmed the cockles of my heart: the thought of you getting busy in the poetry world, making connections and supporting other writers, despite the demands of your ‘other life’ as a health professional, is a fount of energy and inspiration.* Your focus on poetry as comfort also chimed with something I’ve been wondering about for a while.

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Keeping a Diary, or the Poetic Joys of Journalling

 

Dear Dot,

Re: How to Organise a Successful Poetry Event

Keeping a Diary, or The Poetic Joys of Journallying!

Johnston's Diary

Since the end of August I’ve been keeping a journal. Home on a visit one weekend, I happened to peek into my gap year journal (from four years ago!!), and found it oddly touching. At a time when I was under a lot of stress, it was good to look back and see my younger self working through the similarly difficult time of leaving home: recording tiny good things that happened with such care, noting bad feelings in kind of code so they didn’t take away from the positive thrust of a day, but still paying close attention to my emotions and attitudes and working to adapt them. As the entries got happier and happier, I thought to myself that if I could get through that time, I could get through this one, and maybe a journal would help me be more mindful and positive. I also thought it could be good for my poetry. Here are some of the poetic benefits I’ve noticed so far:

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