A Pocketful of Ideas

poetry town carrick sSome of you will know poetry is one of my things, so I have been very happy to be involved in Poetry Ireland’s Poetry Town initiative.  Two places close to where I live are among the 20 towns on the island of Ireland involved in the project – Carrick on Shannon in County Leitrim and Strokestown in County Roscommon.

I was asked to do an outdoor poetry reading in Carrick last weekend, when I joined others to read some of my own work and that of writers I admire. We did a walking tour of the town, stopping at notable landmarks to read appropriate poems. And then on Tuesday evening we had a return of the Word Corner Cafe.

Looking around at the people enjoying the poetry, I began thinking about how you can only sometimes judge a book by its cover.

And that’s kind of where I’m going today for our creative writing prompt/exercise – but with a heavy poetry bias (of course!). So you’ll be writing a poem…

I want you to delve deeper than appearances to write about someone (anyone!). I’m suggesting you take a look in their pockets or handbag to find some inspiration about what they are really like.

What hides there might tell you some unexpected things. Imagine finding a lipstick, foreign coins and a year-old bar receipt in the pocket of an old farmer. What about breath mints, rat poison, a measuring tape and a sharp knife in the handbag of your hairdresser?

You may want to delve a little deeper and explain just how you know about this stuff. Why were you checking someone’s pockets or peeping into their handbag? Who else knows what a nosey parker you are?

Then you need to think about the POV of your poem – is it yours as the observer, or are you writing as one of the items? Or is this the voice of a passive onlooker or the outraged (or embarrassed) owner of the bits and pieces?

Try taking this idea and writing from several points of view to see what works best. Mix it up a bit and see how that looks. If you are struggling with your poem, start by writing a list and try to use words with some musicality to them. A lipstick the colour of dry blood, sounds interesting, don’t you think? And an unopened box of breath mints speaks volumes. Then, when you are at the editing stage, try that old trick of using your last line as your first to see if that works.

You can, as ever, choose free verse, or rhyming couplets – or write to a more formal structure. The choice is yours, but no more than 40 lines.

Meanwhile, I’ll be interested to see what the next generation of local wordsmiths comes up with – I’ve been asked to judge the Strokestown Schools Competition for Poetry Town. There are six categories, starting with infants, right up to Leaving Cert students, and I’ll be expected to chose a shortlist for Poetry Ireland to select winners from. That should make for interesting reading – I’m really looking forward to it.

If you are new here, welcome! There’s a bit of background as to what this is all about here, otherwise just call back next week for another creative writing prompt/exercise to inspire you to keep writing. There’s a new post every Wednesday afternoon at 5pm, Dublin time.