Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Sharing Challenges in Poetry

On the website of Tears in the Fence, under Notes, you'll find Sheila Hamilton's account of sharing poetry challenges with me. We have been doing this for some time now and it has given rise to a great number of poems for each of us. Some of the poems have been good; some have been excellent enough to win the odd prize; many have been published; and some were complete failures. Both of us often found that when it was our own turn to set the challenge we ourselves got stuck. Much easier to respond to the other's task. But the best thing about it has been, as Sheila says in her essay, that it shakes us out of our comfort zones.

Our recent task was to write about paths or roads, creating a poem of over 50 lines or more. Curious that shortly after we set this, roads and journeys have cropped up in poetry everywhere... the Odyssey has been examined, used, and spoken of by poets, and Basho's Narrow Road to the North has been featured on radio. Is there really such a thing as a collective consciousness? And how does it work? The Green Man was popping up everywhere not so long back. Poems about cancer have been pretty extensively exhausted in the last few years (not so surprising since the disease is so common). Now it's roads/journeys. What next?

Meanwhile the best poem I know about roads is a poem called Those who Make Paths, by Catherine Fisher, from her collection The Unexplored Ocean (seren)

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