The Secret of Writing Poetry

I’ve been looking through my poetry work lately and I started to think that I could write a blog about writing a poem. Now I’ve started I’m not sure how this is going to work out but anyway, let’s give it a shot.

For me there are two ways to write a poem. One is where I have to work at it and the other is when the whole thing just comes to me. I once read that Paul McCartney thinks that his songs and melodies are just hanging in the air and all he does is to entice them down to him. I’m clearly not on the same level as McCartney but that image just captures exactly how I feel when a good poem comes to me.

There is a particular state of mind that I enter for this process to happen. The best time is when I’m driving my car. I don’t know why, and I can only guess that driving sends me into that perfect state of mental concentration where a poem or an idea will come to me, enticed down, as Paul McCartney suggested, from the cosmos. That is the purest way to write a poem, one where either the whole thing or at least a couple of verses present themselves and then I have to sit down and work at the rest.

Sometimes an idea comes to me in odd ways. Some years ago in one of my old jobs, I used to return home from work in the mid afternoon. I started very early and usually worked through my break, getting home between 2 and 3pm. I would get changed, have a quick wash and come into the kitchen to put the kettle on. The kitchen was in the front of the house and in the summer months I noticed the cat from the house across the road would usually be getting comfy under the small tree on their lawn while I waited for the kettle to boil. I often watched that cat. I never noticed it as I reversed my big van into my drive but later, in the kitchen, I would invariably see the cat settle down for an afternoon nap.

One day I came home from work, got washed, and from the kitchen noticed the cat getting into position as usual under the tree. I took my tea and toast into the lounge and settled down with the TV. Later I heard something, a commotion of some sort but nothing that was compelling enough for me to shift my lazy butt and see what was happening. Not long after that, my partner came home and I could hear something going on. She seemed to come in and go out again. When she finally came in I asked what had happened and it seemed that the lady opposite had returned home and found that her cat was still under the tree but not sleeping, it had died.

That particular lady was someone who was a bit of a diva and very often made a lot of fuss about things that really, weren’t worth making a fuss of. Apparently, she began shouting and screaming and various neighbours came over to assist while I, in blissful ignorance, was busy dozing. Still, that little event became the inspiration for the poem The Cat Across the Road. I made the assumption, rightly or wrongly, that the cat was ready to depart his life; maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he felt he had a few more years left of sun lounging, mouse chasing and bird catching. If he did his heart must have stopped without warning during his or her feline slumbers. All in all, not a bad way to go.

 

Everything seemed in order, I suppose, to die

It was a warm enough day

Certainly

 

The sun shone and birds sung

Even though birds would cause a feline heart to race

Normally

 

I’ve had my fill of life

Of titbits and cosy sleeps, sometimes in next door’s shed

Informally

 

And I’ve had my chases and midnight hunts

And I’ve always remembered my owners and left them a mouse or two

Naturally

 

A last cuddle would have been nice

Still, all in all it’s been a good life, and I’ve loved it

Enormously

 

I’ve always liked this tree

I can keep my eye on the birds and the sun comes down

Warmly

 

So now I’ll just close my eyes and die

And go on to the next of my nine lives

Expectantly.

The other way of writing a poem is where I sit down determined to write something. Recently I saw in one of the poetry newsletters that I subscribe to, an item about a poetry contest. They wanted a poem about love. Now I am not a person who can describe himself as well qualified to write on that particular subject, but I settled down and began to play with ideas and words. After a while I came up with the beginning of a poem, one that I had to return to in the following days to flesh out. As I mentioned before, love isn’t one of my specialist subjects and I took that thought literally into the poem. As I am a cool sort of customer, not one for spouting or talking about my feelings I thought that might be a relevant message for me and others like me.

I don’t think I can remember my mother and certainly not my father ever talking about love. They loved me, I knew that. I knew it when my dad picked me up off the floor when I fell off a ride in the park. I knew it every time my mother washed my jeans and shirts and made my favourite meals. Still, there are others who need love spoken in words. I realise and respect that but for me there is No Need to Talk of Love.

To save me typing the poem out here and also to liven up this post a little, here’s my YouTube video version:

That’s about it really. Take an idea, try and boil it down into a phrase, something with resonance and some lyrical attributes and go with it. I was actually pretty pleased with the poem above. I sent it off to the poetry competition with high hopes. I have to admit, I didn’t send it off in the form it is above. Since then I’ve worked on it some more and edited it a little but sadly it wasn’t a winner or even a runner up.

As a writer though and not one who can really call himself a professional one, the fundamental result of writing and the reason for doing it has to be the pleasure of crafting something that is satisfying to me; satisfying to write and to read. It is the process of writing itself which is most rewarding to me, perhaps that is why I am always skimming back over my past work. Well, someone has to read this stuff, it might as well be me.

I do love it every time someone presses the like button here on WordPress or over on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube but the Ferrari, the motorboat and the Spanish villa that I expected, or more accurately hoped I might earn from all this scribbling has not arrived. Indeed, those things may never arrive but even so if you come looking for me you’ll probably find me with a notebook or my laptop in my hand, writing.


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I Hope The Train Breaks Down.


I hope the train breaks down

Before the end of the line.

Then again, that’s a bit of a foolish thought

For sooner or later

We’ll get to the end,

In time.

 

I’m not in any hurry

To get to my destination.

I might even change trains at the next station

I’m not quite ready

For the end of the line,

This time.

 

So I’ll carry on with my trip

And I’m enjoying my travels

Plenty of stations to call at

While life unravels.

I’ll get to the end of the line,

Sometime.


Steve Higgins is the author of Floating in Space, a novel set in Manchester 1977. To buy or for more information click the links at the top of the page.

The Long and Dusty Road of Life

A short road, a long road,
A travelled-only-once-road
It’s the long and dusty road of life
It’s heartache, happiness, and strife

A happy road, a clean road​
Is the road that I desire
A cheerful road, a sweet singing music road,
Free from muddy mire

Let my road be a long road,
A fondly remembered high road
And don’t let me detour at a crossroads,
Or linger on a lonely road

One day I’ll need a fast road, a rushing road
A quickly time is running out road
And I’ll breathe my last in a quiet road, a by road
An end of the line side road

For journeys end is a sad road
A goodbye and thanks for all you’ve done road
A cul de sac, an avenue, a long gone distant road,
And as time passes it soon becomes a travelled-long-ago road.


Steve Higgins is the author of Floating in Space, a novel set in Manchester, 1977. The book is available in Kindle or paperback formats. Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

Tap, Tap, Tapping my Way


I’m caught up in the fog

I’ve got my hands out

Feeling my way like a blind man in a haze

Tap, tap, tapping my way along,

Through life.

I don’t really know what I’m looking for

But I keep searching

I’m like a blind man fumbling in the dark

And I sometimes think I need an instruction book

So I can be flick, flick, flicking,

Through life.

There are times; I guess it’s my lot,

When I don’t understand the plot.

I’m going backwards and forwards

Trying to understand.

Fast, fast, forwarding

Through life.

One day there’ll be a break in the fog

And I’ll see the sun,

But when the answers won’t come

I’ll dream harder,

Borne back to the past by memories

Back, back, back,

Through life.


Steve Higgins is the author of Floating in Space set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

The Rain

The stream becomes the river
The river becomes the sea
And the rain that washes over me
Is the rain that will set me free.

For you are my rain,
My river and my stream,
And I am the fisherman
Who loves you in his dreams.

So when I wake I’ll hold you
And take away your pain.
Love can wash the pain away
Like dust in the pouring rain.

The stream becomes the river,
The river becomes the sea.
And all our sins are washed away
When the rain washes over me.

Love Isn’t

 

Love isn’t some little thing that goes ding!

It isn’t a song that you can sing.

It’s not something that might happen in a flash,

It doesn’t happen while driving and cause you to crash.

 

Love isn’t something tangible, something you can see,

It might even be invisible, to both you and to me.

It’s something that will join us and hold us together,

It’s a feeling that will get better, whatever the weather.

 

Love isn’t the singing of a song

But it’s working together when things go wrong

It isn’t the chiming of a bell or the tooting of a horn

But It’s just tears of joy when a child is born.

 

 

Dylan Thomas

Time for a reblog to commemorate Dylan’s birthday today!

Letters from an unknown author!

I love lots of writers but probably my all-time favourite is Dylan Thomas. I love the outstanding power of his writing, his incredible imagery, and the wonderful pictures he creates with his words.

Dylan also is the sort of writer I’ve always wanted to be: A bohemian, pub crawling, boozing writer who fought with himself as he laboured to paint his word pictures. Whether that was really the case I don’t know but Dylan did like his pubs and he did enjoy a drink.

The fact of the matter is that I’m nothing like Dylan, except we both share a love of words, particularly the sound of words, which is the key to the richness of Dylan’s work, especially his poetry. If you think about it, there must be a connection between the sound of a word and its meaning, a deep organic connection. After all, how did words begin? Imagine…

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When the Holiday is Over

Forget the blue skies and the swimming pool
Your desk is all ready so don’t act like a fool.

Forget the pavement cafes and Mademoiselles
As your computer fires up with a thousand e-mails
Enough to numb the pain
And the nagging desire for a glass of red wine;
Act cool.

Briefings, meetings and folders to review
Memoranda and consultations to plough through

Forget the camembert and French bread
Close the door on the plat du jour
Its not even lunch and I can’t resist
The thought of a cool aperitif;
As if . .

Revised protocols need to be sorted
And I see the new software is unsupported

I’ll enjoy my lunch in the works canteen
A ham sandwich and a cup of tea
And the memory of a French bistro won’t even arise
All bustle and chatter and joie de vivre
No, not for me . .

The Secret of Happiness

I was happy and never knew it,

Sad and knew it so well.

Love slipped by though I hardly noticed,

yet love has marked me well.

 

Winter passed and summer came

yet I was living in the cold.

My love has turned and passed me by

and outside the world grows old.

 

Happiness is trapped for me

In a former time, where once I used to dwell.

I was happy and never knew it

Sad and knew it so well

 

 

A Girl Called Pamela Taylor

I wrote this many years ago and it was called ‘A girl called Paper Tangle.’ It was one of those inspirational poems where you suddenly get an idea and just go with it. It has a nice rhythm and trips along well but I was never happy with the ‘paper tangle’ thing. Anyway, not long ago I changed it to Pamela Taylor and the poem feels so much better. Apologies to any girl called Pamela Taylor!

A Girl Called Pamela Taylor

 

Pamela Taylor wears chic clothes

Designer labels, anything goes.

Her coat has buttons made of gold

She likes to be noticed, she’s bold.

 

Pamela Taylor wears black boots,

Her body is a gun that shoots.

She’s incredibly sexy and overtly erotic

and her taste is impossibly exotic

 

Pamela Taylor has blue-eyed eyes

and discreetly she enters other people’s lives.

She’ll trap you with magnetic sighs

and it’s yourself you’ll probably despise

 

Pamela Taylor knows all the best wine

and any man she wins in time.

She’s every scene-stealer and wheeler-dealer,

And to the social lepers she’s a saintly healer.

 

Pamela Taylor never pays her fees

She opens locks with other people’s keys

One look will slice you through if you tell her lies

Or nothing she can’t easily surmise.