Ford Dagenham is one our authors published in I You He She It – a collection of short stories and poems developed out of the Grist project. As part of #OAWeek we asked him to discuss his writing processes and and how he keeps himself on track when writing poetry.
You can read more around the author on their blog.
The Poetry Process
(readings prose submitting etc are another story)
I write poetry waking up. Not weekends. Days off are ok.
After a day or two off I get the itch. Without being dramatic, who I am unravels.
I post the mornings poem on the blog then I pat myself on the back.
I keep notebooks for poetry and story ideas. I use Notes in my iphone. People assume I am another addict to the glass. I enjoy this misconception.
I look OUT and IN.
I wrote rules down. Its like a blueprint, a distilled list of elements.
I often ignore it.
If I write something that feels dead, it probably is. Its unlikely to merit a funeral.
I resuscitate dead work. Halve its word count. Then its bones show. Then I add flesh and hats.
The delete key is liberation. Often a way out of the swamp.
I repurpose bad work. A bad line ON PURPOSE is ok, even funny.
I delight in accidental rhymes.
Rhyming on purpose is a forced endeavour, lending an expectation that can destroy natural flow.
I find a neighbours minutiae a gift on dead-end mornings.
I stop and start something new. Freshness is spring air and old work can improve like ignored wine.
Distractions can be material. Also they are distractions and inevitable.
Better to not read others work at all, than read it with a mental red pen.
Beware the vacuum, tho it can be informative, like a mirror.
If I write just bare branches, then I add flowers and leaves.
Sometimes a poem is done before you are. Notice this.
I try to be universal and personal. Brand names, song lyrics, ad tags are reality.
I sometimes try for a new language, which sounds poncy.
I enjoy a good typo.
I use no punctuation. When I do use punctuation, its either like a day at the seaside or a horrible school trip.
Writing is a state born of continued trying.
Writing is HEALTHY. That tortured genius lark, I don’t buy it.
My blog says ‘a poem or pic a day until I die or don’t’. This gives me discipline and flexibility.
My blog is the one most important thing that keeps me writing.
I write for me and my dozen regular readers and occasional zines. This is enough.
Moving water is good for inspiration. Like fire. Constant motion. The bath counts and washing the dishes.
Rejection letters/emails are difficult for editors to write. Have empathy. I thank them for a good rejection. I been read. Good.
Rape yourself with kindness.
I dig deep. I skim light.
If I go stale, its often because the music has stopped.
Read poetry. Lots is just guff. Read anyway. Broadly. Dart and prod. Reading poetry on the toilet one morning (counts as running water) I wrote six poems none of which was shit.
I try to be aware of my thoughts. They are journeys.
Songs stuck in my head get new words for the melody.
If I borrow or steal, I credit it in the poem or in the title.
I try not to judge. If I judge I make it clear I’m judging. Then I judge myself.
Have an opinion. Don’t be blind to other opinions.
I have realised I am writing this in the voice of Alan Partridge.
Beware of voices in your head. Or be aware of voices in your head. They are not all for you.
I think in my gut. Head-space is chaotic, don’t spend all day there.
Rarely am I writing the worlds most important poem. But I try to.
There WAS a thousand excuses to not sit down and tap anything out.
There IS a thousand reasons TO sit down and tap something out.
I try not to write about writing. Sometimes I of course do.
I attempt authority. Probably it is fake. We are not all Moses. Its important to believe what you write. Or how will the reader? Don’t be Dan Brown.
I don’t worry about titles. I make it up at the last minute. They can be changed.
If you have a good line that won’t fit, there’s your title.
Use the first line as the title, then the reader hits the ground running.
No title is fine.
A number as a title hints at a secret order.
A title of a COLLECTION is more important. Be understated. The work will fly higher.
Imbibe what you need to. But its YOU that writes, not blended chemicals.
Today I am a sober poet. No one has ever done a harder thing.
I keep calm. Too angry is fine. I wrote one of my best poems when angry with the council housing office.
I read Ferlinghetti’s 2001 inaugural address.