Making Poetry — a new found love of words

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I started a free Futurelearn course, How to Make a Poem run by Manchester Metropolitan University and have completely fallen in love with poetry as a form of expression. The original intention was to find other ways of expressing myself with words, but it’s been a surprising experience.

The course starts off gently with a discussion of our favourite poems. I discovered some new poems I really love through reading the discussion thread and was reminded of some of my all-time favourites, too:

Edward Lear — The Owl and the Pussycat
Robert Frost — Fire and Ice
T.S. Eliot — Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat (in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats)1
Charles C. Finn — Please Hear What I’m Not Saying

It then triggered memories of Norman Nicholson’s2 poetry I studied for GCSE English. My teacher taught us assonance and alliteration, rhyme and rhythm, oxymorons and onomatopoeias, all through Nicholson’s poetry. I now have an urge to reread it.

I also love that the course is entitled making, not writing, and the tutors talk about why this is. For me, creating something out of words is making and the process of committing those words to screen or paper is writing, so this really appeals to my creative side.

Our next task was to create a ‘cento’ or a collage poem. Take a single line from multiple other poets’ work and put them together to create a new poem. (Copyright is explained in far more detail in the course and what is and isn’t allowed).

Mine was,

They danced by the light of the moon,3
On the sheep-cropped summit, under hot sun4

Edward Lear writes beautiful, lyrical, non-sensical lines and looking for inspiration, I searched on the word ‘cat’, which is the obvious joiner if you know the two titles. However, I loved the idea of perpetuating the nonsense by juxtaposing the sun and moon.

The next task was ‘found poetry’ – creating a poem made of words taken from another place, even if as mundane as shopping receipts or adverts. Again, this idea really appealed and it’s something I want to play with much more. I was reasonably happy with what I came up with but need to work on some of it more before publishing it online.

And the final assignment was to critique another student’s poem and receive critique in return. This was far less intimidating than it sounds – we were guided firmly by the course on how to go about this and made the task of putting my work out there far easier.

1 Buy Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot on Amazon US | Amazon UK
2 Buy Selected Poems 1940-1982 by Norman Nicholson on Amazon US | Amazon UK
3 The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear
4 Cat and Mouse by Ted Hughes

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