The Process of Drafting Poetry.

*Apologies for the post being a day late*

I always find the romantic image of a poet, sat by a tree, freely writing, taking inspiration from the muse, idyllic but…unrealistic. I very very rarely post a poem I have written on this blog or on my Instagram that I haven’t mercilessly picked apart, edited, crossing words out, deleting lines, re-phrasing, adding white space where it once didn’t exist. Poetry is as much of a craft as short story writing is.

I am currently (and have been since last summer) working on my first complete poetry collection, titled ‘Documents on The Mysteries of Dark Matter’. I have mentioned it before but for those who might not have read my previous posts, here is a lil bit of info for you!

– The collection will comprise of 10 poems that all experiment with form.
– They all focus on dark matter, dark energy, parallel universes/multiverse.
– The collection follows a narrative of someone or something coming to the reader and informing them on what dark matter/energy could be. The narrative voice starts from the point of laying out what the universe is made up of, going onto big, grand cosmic ideas and will then, in the last 3 poems, come back down to an atomic, molecular level, exploring what dark matter could be under the microscope.

Because the poetry I am writing for this collection all fall into the experimental realm, this means that, inevitably, a LOT of drafting happens. Because form and how form can be played with is one of the main focuses of this collection, I usually start the poems off in a notebook and write it by hand. This first stage of the drafting usually entails a straightforward, line by line, I suppose you’d call it free verse? But I don’t bother with experimenting with form at this stage because I know I will end up hating something, or changing something.
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If by some miracle, however, I am happy with it, I will then go onto experiment with the form of the poem in the notebook and in writing.
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From here I will probably try out the format on a word document. I always change the wording and layout of the poem when it gets to this stage, for some reason the transition from paper to a computer screen always makes me super critical of my own writing. It’s like I suddenly see all the problems with it.

Once I have the first draft on word I might re-draft it 2/3 times before trying to fit it in and format into the word document that I’ve put the collection together in.

One tip I would give to anyone putting together a poetry collection, If I have learnt one thing more than anything else from my time at University studying Creative Writing, it is this: DO NOT BE PRECIOUS. It is so so easy when you’re writing poetry to think you’re a genius, you get lost in your own metaphors and brilliance while simultaneously being worried it isn’t good enough for others to read. But THE MOST helpful tool for any poet, is what other people (friends, family, colleagues) think of it, how they interpret it, what they enjoy, what isn’t as clear as you might think it is. Give your poetry to the world and I can guarantee it will make it even better.

When I started writing this collection, it had no narrative voice, I didn’t see why a poetry collection should have a narrative voice? It seemed silly. But when I workshopped the first three poems I wrote, the main thing that came back was that they didn’t feel like they had a direction, as poems that were meant to be part of a collection. Knowing that was so helpful and it made the collection even stronger.

So, poets:

KILL YOUR DARLINGS!


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Or at least, re-draft them.

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