5 Day Poetry Challenge

Ever since I was small, I have dabbled in poetry. To call it more than that would be to insult actual poets who have spent years working at their craft. It started when I was about eight. I was the princess of event poetry. Christmas? Got a poem for that. Bonfire Night. Yep, that too. Actually, these are the only two I can remember but I know for a fact that I had a whole ring binder (remember them, kids?) full of little seasonal and occasional poems, each one appropriately illustrated, by moi. Neither poem nor picture were any good, but I didn't care. I was writing them for the sheer bloody love of it.


And then I stopped. For about a decade. For stupid reasons. Until the arrival of what I like to refer to as the maudlin years, full of dreadful poems that I, in my kinder moments, suspect were attempts to come to terms with some personal problems. Problems I couldn't articulate, even to myself. There are also a couple about friendship and quite a few about boys who don't like me. Your average teenage stuff. I still have these in a book. Opening it is like opening a beehive without the appropriate safety equipment. It stings. Both for the badness of the writing and for what I can see now at a distance – a young girl struggling and no clue about how to tell anyone.


And then I stopped. Again. For years. And years. Until I went back to uni to take my writing more seriously. I concentrated on fiction, I wrote a whole book. And I dabbled a little more at some poetry.


Which brings me to the very recent past; specifically the last week of June 2019 and a stumble across a tweet about a challenge posed by Arvon, an organisation I love very much for helping me crack the 'am I writing this book or not?' nut. It was called the 5 Day Poetry Challenge and was designed to celebrate National Writing Day on 26 June. The challenge: commit at least 30 minutes of each day to writing poetry with the help of a series of exercises from poet Jen Hadfield.


So, I did. And it was amazing. Each exercise drew you a little deeper into the process and offered new ways of thinking about ideas, the act of writing, finding the breath in a poem and – my favourite bit – using alphabet pasta to find the poem's shape and interrogate every word choice. There was a moment about half way through the week when I started to beat myself up because I had misread Day 2's exercise and was worried I was going to fall behind, but I pushed on and did something I've always said is impossible for me - write in the evening. And, in the end, my 'misstep' helped me better understand what I was trying to do.  


Below I've posted some pictures of my experiences along the way, including my final poem, which I decided to turn into wall art to remind me that I want to do more than dabble. That I want to understand this craft and, more importantly, practise it. And also because there's something joyous about sticking pasta to card that also reminds me of being eight.






Pasta 1


Pasta 2 (1)