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How I Write: My Life as a Poet

My poems have been published online and in print for at least the past twelve years, but I started writing even further back. I will continue to write for a long time I hope, simply because I enjoy it. This is basically why I write, and of course, enjoying any activity makes it easier to keep going and to improve.

With regards to inspiration, my writing partly comes from modernist literature, which is experimental, individual and breaks with traditional ways of writing. It is also direct and personal, including a great deal of my own emotional experience; this approach probably comes from modern American poetry. When I started to write, I was inspired by a clip of a boxer hitting a heavy bag with speed and power. I wanted my writing to have the same immediacy and energy.

When I write, I often start with an image or phrase based on something I’ve seen, some words I’ve heard, or a book I’ve read. This means I don’t need to have a complete idea for a poem before I start writing, or to know exactly where it is going. Having started with an opening line or phrase, I then connect other ideas and images, and incorporate my own feelings and experiences. The text develops in front of me as I edit, change, and work with the language and as new ideas come to mind. I don’t worry too much about rhyme or regular poetic forms – I think my own language and emotion can determine the shape of the poem.

One part of my writing method, and something that makes writing a lot easier for me, is that I don’t need to be systematic. I can write what I want and I can write when I want to, or at least whenever I have some time. Poets can be quite free in this way, and I am grateful for this freedom, which I don’t think is so easily available to novelists or playwrights.

I spend a lot of time thinking, observing the world around me, and reading other writers I am interested in. It can be good to think and turn things over in your mind in this way and then write freely, knowing that you can change things later. You can then remove things that don’t work and keep and develop anything good. You can also step away and think about your work, then return to it later to make any changes you want.

My target when I started was to experiment with language and new ways of writing, and then to get my work published in small presses. This hasn’t changed. My ambition now is just to keep writing, to be published a bit more widely and to become a better performer of my work when I have to read it.

If you’re interested in learning more about my poems, you can find a review of my latest book here.