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Showing posts from March, 2017

What Makes a Great Poem Great: Poem #2

As I said in my last post, YouTube is an amazing place to discover poetry.  I feel very privileged to live in an age in which these online resources exist.  Playing a poetry reading on YouTube will never replace going to a live reading, but it does allow you to watch both historic readings and readings in other countries.  Plus, it does allow you to skip any boring bits or move onto another reading completely.  I've watched many readings by the former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, whose popularity prior and subsequent to that post speaks for itself.  In one of many engaging talks uploaded to YouTube, he says that when he's flicking through a book of poetry, he always reads the short poems first, just so he can get a flavour of what the book is like as a whole.  It seems right to do this, because trying to getting into the zone in a bookshop is hard thing to do.  To my mind, poetry is an ascension, then a descension -  or is it the other way around?  Either way, a poem requ…

What Makes a Great Poem Great: Poem #1

Now that my stonemasonry apprenticeship is over, I have time to focus on the element of the craft I can see myself making a career out of.  The two weeks I spent at a letter carving workshop in Oxfordshire was the very first of my placements.  All the other placements were all excellent in their own way, but there was something about letter carving - something about the huge expanse of creative possibilities that exists within it - that pulls me into that world.   

For one, there's the meditative aspect of letter carving.  Before any letters are carved in stone, the traditional letter carver will first set out the letters onto paper.  Two horizontal ruled lines will be drawn according to the height of the letters, then these letters are drawn by hand.  And by hand I mean freehand.  No stencils, no rulers - no other tools apart from a pencil.  Just the hand and the eye.  It takes a lot of practice to accurately copy something as delicately shaped and weighted as a letterform.  Many …

What Makes a Great Poem Great: Introduction

In an interview Jack Underwood did with Maurice Riordan and The Poetry Society, he said that there were probably only about ten really good poems.He went on to say that there are a hundred or a thousand good ones, but the really good ones are hard to find.

I admit that I have much more confidence in recognising a great song than I do in recognising a great poem, but that’s only because my musical journey has been much longer and more immersive than my relatively short poetry journey.I’ve listened to thousands of good songs and thousands of bad songs over the years and in doing so, the difference between good and bad becomes plain as day, and the difference between good and great becomes just as obvious.Similarly, in recognising the difference between good and bad poetry, the reader becomes more confident not just in his or her taste, but also in not having to justify that taste.

A good ear for poetry leads to a state of what can only be described as ablissful knowing when it comes to be…