Sunday, 14 August 2011

Full circle

The first poems I wrote, back when I was 17 or 18, were really song lyrics, or as good as, with regular rhythms and simple rhyme schemes. That’s not surprising, really, as I’d been listening to pop and rock music for years, whereas the only poetry I’d read up to that point was centuries-old (notably the work of the metaphysical poets, which I studied for A level) that was never going to be an influence on my writing.

Gradually, as I read more 20th-century poetry, my own poems became correspondingly more modern, sometimes even verging on the oblique. Not that I was afraid to rhyme when the poem called for it, unlike some of the poets at the workshop I attended weekly for the best part of 10 years, who regarded a rhyme in the same way as a vampire regards a stake.

Towards the end of that time, I finally settled on a voice, and a style, that I was happy with. I started telling stories in my poems, assuming the voices of characters rather than expressing my own personal concerns, and it felt right. It also helped to confirm my feeling that I was ready to start writing ‘proper’ stories, in the form of novels, and I left poetry behind when I did so.

Now that I’m working on song lyrics (as I explained in a recent post), it feels like I’m combining both extremes of my poetry years. I’m writing verses and choruses with strong rhythms and rhymes, but in those verses and choruses I’m telling stories about characters. That’s a challenge in itself, because it’s hard to tell a story in three verses, or three and a half minutes.

Thinking about it, maybe I should dig out my old notebooks and see if there’s anything I can use from my teenage poems… Then again, no. Best let sleeping dogs lie.

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