Where do poems come from? – a mixture of ideas

Posted: July 2, 2014 in Home
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This poem was published in a recent issue of The Rialto.

It has a complex history. My daughter was complaining about the general darkness of my poems, and fellow students on my MA in Creative Writing also had similar opinions.

So… I set out to write a happy poem. I was full of doubt, as my poetry is a  surly, mangy beast, snarling in its cave. I looked on the web for prompts,  quotations, anything that might act as a trigger.  And then I found this Emily Dickinson quotation. Along with Emily I tried for a bit of joy and ended up back in that cave!

This poem interests me because it tells a story, engages with other writers, and has an inevitable ending.

My daughter’s reaction? “Gah, it is still miserable.”

Bring me the sunset in a cup

You say I write the poetry of misery and I say, I’m scared
that happiness writes white (according to me and Montherlant).
So how to start? I look for inspiration on the web, hateful
writers’ prompts I don’t think I can use. And then this line of
Dickinson’s, ‘Bring me the sunset in a cup.” Well, that will do.

It sounds like the closing of a summer’s day, with something
of a honeyed taste to it. Languid. Shot through with gold
and blue and sharpest crimson. And oh, an edge has probed
this poem, inserted itself like a fine knife. Of course I meant
to say a dazzle of cerise. Or something even softer, maybe

candyfloss. (Cloying, sweet and sticking in my teeth). It seems
I’m not a natural at joy. I look at Emily. She starts off on a high.
The morning leaps and robins are in ecstasy then she goes on
to rainbows. But there’s a falling off, a bit like mine. She asks
‘Who…shut the windows down so close/My spirit cannot see?’


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