Saturday, 13 December 2014

Maybe I CAN write poetry...

I've always loved rhyming words. There's something musical about them if they're done right, and I have hung on to many of the children's picture books from when they were little because the combinations of words and pictures were my favourite bedtime books to read to them. Dr Seuss, Allan and Janet Ahlberg, Julia Donaldson...always such fun to share.

I love writing rhymes myself. I seem to have a bit of a knack for it - though it doesn't always come out brilliantly - and somehow, the mechanics of writing in rhyme feels like 'proper' poetry to me. In fact, the only time I've ever won a writing competition (and fifty quid!) was with a limerick :

A young lady who felt fashion keenly
Tried on a new-fangled bikini.
With two bits of string,
Some cloth and a ring,
The thing would've baffled Houdini!

I've also written new words to old hymns and's the chorus and first verse of a carol*, to the tune 'All Things Bright and Beautiful':

Once upon a starry night
Two thousand years ago
Shone a star especially bright
To show the way to go.

Three wise men saw it gleaming
And knew what it foretold
A Saviour come among us
As prophets told of old...

I don't really understand the rest of what's classified as poetry. I remember reading one poem in English Lit, years ago...written by Spike Milligan I think, about abortion. Put me off for life. It didn't rhyme, the subject (to a pretty naive 15 year old) was alien, and I just didn't like it. Same with other forms. I know a Haiku has a syllable pattern, but it doesn't rhyme. I looked through my daughter's GCSE poetry selection and shuddered, 'cos I didn't understand what made it poetry.

So I thought I couldn't write it. Until last week. NIBS had a Winter Warmer Poetry Workshop for their last meeting of the year, led by chaplain and published poet, Frances Ballantyne. Our focus was Christmas, and Frances shared some poetry with us before encouraging us to try our hand at a couple of exercises. One was simply to take a line from a carol and write two more after it. Another was to take a date (the eating sort, not the calendar sort!), a nut or a satsuma as one of the essentials of Christmas to inspire us. Look at a Christmas card picture, and write new words to replace the impersonal 'Seasons greetings' printed inside. All simple, fairly easy, and not a syllabic pattern in sight. (Is syllabic a real word, I wonder?)

Anyway, I found it enlightening and had my confidence boosted. So much so, I'm going to share some of what I wrote with you.

The Christmas Essential.

There was no satsuma in my stocking.
I got my shiny penny, a plastic whistle,
Chocolate coins and some weird flavoured lip balm -
but no satsuma in my stocking.
A notebook. A tiny star to hang on my tree...
but no satsuma in my stocking.
Is there a satsuma shortage?
Did Father Christmas forget?
I know I always sneak it back onto the fruitbowl
'cos I much prefer grapes...
But this Christmas
There was no satsuma in my stocking.

Whether it's good poetry or not, I have no idea. It comes from my own experiences of Christmas, the place Frances said her poetry comes from, flavoured with heart, life and faith. Maybe I'll share some faith poetry with day. For now, I'll stick to the satsuma.

* If you'd like the rest of the words to the carol, or to see others I've written, just drop me a line - I'm happy for you to sing them in your own church, providing I'm credited.

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