In this week’s guest blog post, Josephine Lay describes some of the events that have led up to her becoming a poet. As she states in this article, poetry can start off as therapy and is often cathartic for both poet and those who read/listen to poetry.
How does one become a poet?
This is a difficult question to answer. I think that you have to love language and literature; love reading and listening to words; you must hear them in your head, or at least the echo of their meaning, after you’ve closed the book or turned off the recording. It helps if you enjoy playing with the sounds of words and their rhythm. You need a strong feeling for something or someone in your life. Have you some passion for nature or art that you feel compelled to communicate? I guess you need to be a bit of an introvert, yet have a desire, and the confidence, to express your thoughts and feelings, thus being extrovert, at times, as well. Poetry can make you brave, honest and passionate.
It can also help you to know yourself.
How did I become a poet?
In my case the answer is, that creative writing and poetry developed from several traumatic events in my life.
I have always loved literature and I’ve read avidly throughout my life, but I’d never tried writing, until I was forced by circumstance, to move across country from Suffolk to Gloucestershire. The move meant I had to sell my business as well as our house and so, I was left without employment.
I joined a creative writing class, I loved it, and to my surprise I found I was good at it. So, when my marriage broke down a few years later, I made the decision to send a portfolio of my writing to Bath Spa University; I was accepted, and I spent the next three years studying various aspects of creative writing. Then, a further year, and all of my savings, studying for an MA.
I graduated, with no real employment possibilities and with no money. I worked in the Library Service, while writing at home. Then, I met my current, other half, and things went smoothly; I wrote
my novels; The Over 50’s Escort Agency and Refuge (to be published later this year), short stories; Saffron Tones, and a book of poems; Inside Reality.
But in Feb 2018, I fell over, hit my head and got concussion. I found I was unable to concentrate on writing for long periods of time, so, moved from novel writing to poetry, and I joined the Gloucestershire Poetry Society (GPS). I’d dabbled with poetry before but now I found it a magical process.
Then in July, I had an accident and, you’ve guessed it… I hit my head again! This time, after recovering from the concussion, I found I’d gained confidence in my work, and I loved performing it on open mic venues around the county and beyond. I already ran Creative Writing workshops for writing novels and short stories but now I added poetry to the mix. I have a 2nd Poetry book; Unravelling, published last month by ‘Black Eyes’ and I’m running workshops on poetry writing; one here at Oakwood on the 18thMay! I also host a monthly, poetry open mic night in Cheltenham; ‘Squawkers’, under the banner of the GPs.
Mine may be an unusual path to Poetry, but it highlights how a passion for words can draw you through the low points in life. In fact many poets begin, by using their writing as a therapy to help them out of sadness, bereavement and even addiction. Of course there is hard work, as well as the thrill of creating; poems have to be edited and altered, to obtain tight, well written and readable pieces on the page. But nothing compares with the sight and sound of your finished poem.