On trying to get better at writing poems

What I used to do was read poems with the sense that they would contain a right way to write. I still do this, but know it is wrong. I still do it.

Sometimes I will read just the first line. And look at the shape that hangs beneath. Sometimes this is enough. It gets me thinking in the right way.


Sometimes I think I haven’t enough content. Just the days I am getting through and the people who are coming with me. Then I’ll remember Morandi and his few pottery jugs coming to wordless conclusions on canvas.

Hold your breath!

Hold your breath!

Sometimes I’ll write a couple of hundred words in the shape of a poem and think yes, this is a poem. And I can leave the room with a lightness that makes me feel that more poems will stick to me without even having to tense and usually that is what happens.

Sometimes I worry so much I haven’t written that I don’t write some more which makes me worry even more.


But this week I bought a book of Simic’s poetry and it has re-educated me.

I have just read his prose poem which starts with My father loved the strange books of Andre Breton. It is almost nothing. Just a lot of words. Not even a lot of words.
I have the sensation that further along my timeline I will look back to this first reading of a bunch of words which will come to roost in me in the same way as some of my own poems have.

roosting flies


About grahamcliffordpoet

Graham is an award winning poet, based in London. He graduated from the University of East Anglia with an MA in Creative Writing, and has since published nationally and internationally, winning many awards and performing at some of the most prestigious and well known Literary Festivals. His debut collection, The Hitting Game, is published by Seren.
This entry was posted in Charles Simic, commentary, creative writing, modern art, Moondog, Morandi, poetry, un chien andalou, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to On trying to get better at writing poems

  1. Lovely post! I’m always interested in reading about ways into poems. I agree that the act of reading will often nurture a poem. I’m curious as to which Simic poems in particular worked for you. I’ll look for the one you mentioned.

  2. juliemaclean says:

    I loved this post too, poetic in itself and the wonderful inclusion of Morandi. That first line the hardest I find but once down everything flows from there in a free association, the freer the better. Then out come the pruning shears, or chain saw.

    • Thanks Julie. It is so much like that! I often visualize a rope ladder being dropped down. And you’re right, the freer the better. I used to be so self conscious of every line, now i let it all hang out!

  3. Pingback: Keeping a reading journal, owning a poem, crocuses | Josephine Corcoran

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