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 pleasureable to me; pleasureable to write and to read. It is the process of writing itself which is most satisfying 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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Buy the book! Click here to visit Amazon and download Floating in Space to your Kindle or order the paperback version.  Click here to purchase my new poetry anthology showcased below.

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.

How to Mix Poetry and Video using Animoto

I suppose that really I’m a frustrated film director but one of the great things about the 21st century’s digital revolution is that anyone can make a video, slap it up there on YouTube or Vimeo and call themselves a director.

Amateur or not, I take my video very seriously and I’m constantly thinking of what I can do with the huge amount of footage that I record. What kind of short video can I make with it? How can I use it? What kind of project can I work on for my next video? I will usually find something to focus on, even if it’s yet another promo video for Floating in Space!

Back in 2016 I seemed to have poems just pouring out of me. I was constantly coming up with something lyrical or what I thought was a great turn of phrase and creating poems. Some of those resultant poems may not have been prize winners or worthy of great poets like Dylan Thomas but they were mostly pretty reasonable and what the heck, I liked them and today with social media we can all bypass the editors of the book publishing world and publish whatever we want via the internet.

Anyway as most of my poems are pretty short I thought it might be a good idea to put a few of them on video and use them to further build up my media profile as a writer as well as giving my YouTube page a little more depth.

First off a few years back I just stepped in front of the camera and read a few poems. Ok, fair enough but a little basic. Here’s the kind of thing I mean, me reading a poem called Some Love.

Not such a bad poem but on a visual level I have to admit it’s a bit on the basic side, just me talking to the camera. What I felt I really needed was perhaps some images that relate to the subject matter and some background music. Also what about the words? I wanted to see the actual text of the poem being shown on screen.

A handy website that has helped me achieve this is Animoto, an on-line editing program that has built in templates that can be used not only for marketing videos but for anything really, but I find it perfect for the video poem.

Animoto isn’t free, but you can trial the site for free and see if it works for you. Anyway, I love Animoto and find it really helpful to make the short videos I use to plug my book (Floating in Space) and this website itself across Instagram, Facebook and anywhere on social media I can find a little spot for myself.

My latest video uses a poem I wrote some years ago called ‘I am That Seed’. It’s pretty short, as is most of my work and to start off I had a troll through the various templates on Animoto and chose one. Click ‘create’ and ‘choose template’ and you will find yourself with a screen something like the one below. The template I have chosen is actually designed to introduce a new family member but we can easily change that.

OK, so now what I’ll do is add my own text -in this case poetry- in each of the boxes after making the first box into a title page, in this case I am That Seed by Steve Higgins. Here’s the finished item below:

You can see that as well as using stock video and photography, I’ve also uploaded some of my own images, in this case a picture of me. I’ve also copied that title box and put the copy at the end of the poem. The whole thing can be tweaked using the buttons on the far left to change text fonts, size and colour as well as the music track.

Animoto have even made their own video showing how to use the templates; have a look below:

Now comes what is a little more difficult, getting the timings right so that the visual text matches up with me reading the poem. This takes a good deal of trial and error so I’ll just read the poem and time each section and then update the time each image stays on the screen. In the case of video, each clip can be trimmed to the appropriate time. After that, click ‘produce’ and Animoto will complete the video and then it can be downloaded.

Editing that sound!

Once you have the video on your PC or laptop then you have to use whatever video editing software you have to record your poem in voice over mode. If I’ve got all the timings correct then that is pretty easy, if not I have to either trim my video on my laptop software or, go back to Animoto, change the timings and then download again! Making a video can be a slow process.

After I’ve recorded the voice over, I usually send it to my sound recording software to cut out my usual mumbles and any background noises and I also sometime add a little bass just to beef up my voice and make it a little sexier!

After that there are two more options. I can send the resulting audio track back to Animoto and complete the video there or just finish the job on my PC by fading the background music down to a quieter level. In fact on the video below, I mixed the narration and the music together and uploaded the complete soundtrack back to Animoto and from there I can export the completed video to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or anywhere I want.

Here’s the final version on YouTube, and don’t forget that if you are doing something similar, make youself a professional YouTube video icon by using canva or another good imaging website.


Floating in Space is a novel by Steve Higgins set in Manchester, 1977. Click here to buy or check out the links at the top of the page for more information.

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.

 

 

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 . .

On the bridge

It was me that found you on that lonely road that night

I spied you on the cameras around midnight

You looked cold on top of that bridge,

I suppose you thought you’d see things in a different kind of light,

Way up on the bridge

In the middle of the night.

The ambulance was on stand by anyway

And I know you had your problems

If only you could have let on, hinted to someone

Maybe you wouldn’t have given us such a fright

But I prefer to believe you were coming down

And that you tripped or were nudged by the wind

It’s a sad place to die in the middle of a road

No one heard you call or shout

And darkness came when the lights went out.

 

 Image

Its a really tragic thing when death occurs on the motorway. Even though the individual will not be known to us the sadness is still there, knowing that we were unable to prevent this tragedy.

My freedom of information request to the UK highways agency revealed that there were 652 suicide attempts on the motorway in 2013;

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/motorway_suicides#incoming-523298

652! That’s a heck of a lot of distraught, sad people.

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