How I Did It

How I Did It – Ted Hughes Award: Salena Godden on ‘LIVEwire’

In the fifth instalment of our Ted Hughes Award ‘How I Did It’ series, Salena Godden explains the creative process behind ‘Can’t Be Bovvered’‘ from her shortlisted work LIVEwire. ‘LIVEwire‘ marks Salena Godden’s first album in nearly a decade, and is a compilation of live and studio recordings, archives and brand new work. It features live material from…

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How I Did It – Ted Hughes Award: Caroline Smith on The Immigration Handbook

In the fourth instalment of our Ted Hughes Award ‘How I Did It’ series, Caroline Smith explains the creative process behind ‘The Scarlet Lizard’ from her shortlisted work The Immigration Handbook. Caroline Smith’s The Immigration Handbook is the fruit of her career as an Immigration Caseworker for one of the most diverse inner-city areas in London. Immigrants’ dramatic emotions,…

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How I Did It – Ted Hughes Award: Jay Bernard on ‘The Red and Yellow Nothing’

In the next instalment of our Ted Hughes Award ‘How I Did It’ series, Jay Bernard explains the many inspirations behind their shortlisted pamphlet, The Red and Yellow Nothing, published by Ink, Sweat & Tears Press.  The Red and Yellow Nothing is written as a prequel to the Arthurian tale of Sir Morien – a young knight described as…

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How I Did It – Ted Hughes Award: Will Eaves on ‘The Inevitable Gift Shop’

In the second instalment of our Ted Hughes Award ‘How I Did It’ series, Will Eaves explains the creative process behind ‘The Lord Is Listenin’ To Ya, Hallelujah’ from his shortlisted work The Inevitable Gift Shop. A memoir by other means, The Inevitable Gift Shop lassoes consciousness, memory, desire, literature, illness, flora and fauna, problems with tortoises…

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How I Did It – Ted Hughes Award: Harry Man on ‘Finders Keepers’

In this first instalment of our Ted Hughes Award ‘How I Did It’ series, Harry Man explains the creative process behind his shortlisted work, Finders Keepers, created in collaboration with illustrator Sophie Gainsley.  Finders Keepers is a collaboration between poet Harry Man and artist and illustrator Sophie Gainsley that examines Britain’s vanishing wildlife. Poems from the project…

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How I Did It – Michael Marks Edition – Richard Scott on ‘cover-boys’

If I am honest, I don’t really know how I did it, wrote cover-boys that is; but there’s something powerful about acknowledging the underlying mystery of poetry right from the get-go, what Whitman calls the ‘unseen hand’; that despite how much you learn and craft there is a subconscious ticking away beneath all the work…

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How I Did It – Michael Marks Edition: Polly Clark ‘Tiger, Tiger’

‘Tiger, Tiger’ from my pamphlet A Handbook for the Afterlife is my longest and perhaps most ambitious poem, abandoning the strict notions I held of what a poem is or can be. For a long time it was in my head rather than on the page as a draft because the idea of it –…

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How I Did It – Michael Marks Edition: Lizzi Thistlethwayte ‘lovesong’

I am aware of an emotional landscape rooted within a geographical one that may bear no outward resemblance to a particular place; merely that there are echoes, reference points. I recognize something. I know I need to pin it down. By ‘pinning it down’ I mean trying to understand by exploring different ways of ‘seeing’;…

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How I Did It: Michael Marks Edition: Fiona Moore ‘Sleep Sonnet’

SLEEP SONNET I last touched the world of sleep at     midday when sun shone through and through a train and the woman     opposite was painting her nails an ocean of deep red     stations trailed unreal names jolted words away from language     upholstered in grey/blue now through night without corridors     or sleep or stars my mind…

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How I Did It – Michael Marks Edition – ‘Anne Whittle (alias Chattox)’

“Wigged w/ cirrus”, “I shall be in a woman’s likeness…” and “LISTEN”: these are among the first notes I put toward the Malkin sequence, scribbling with sudden enthusiasm on a train from Lancaster to Cambridge back in June 2014 (the muses, as has been well-documented, often take the train). The Pendle Witches had fascinated me…

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“We-Poetics” – How I Did It: ‘Body Logic’

Because first of all, it’s not just I. Even in poetry, even the lonely writing on a lined pad or keypad. Even that has its communal moments. No one does anything on one’s own. And that goes for writing, too. When I read a book of poems that move me, I know I am moved…

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How I Did It: Poem in Which…

In darker periods, I spend far too many hours Wikipedia-hopping: clicking from link to link and half-learning all sorts of extraordinary things. I find Wikipedia a real horde of things to write about and poems to find. My favourite articles are the list pages, and the best of these (and a good portal to further…

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How I Did It: ‘Interlude’

This poem was the first poem I tried to write after a period of about three years during which I didn’t write at all. During this time, I was making some significant discoveries about my family, my mother and myself, unpicking the deep legacies of intergenerational trauma. One day, after work, I took myself to…

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How I Did It: ‘The Survivors’

I began the poems in Disko Bay during a midwinter residency at Upernavik Museum in Greenland. My brief was to write about the history of the island and its present-day community but I hoped to record some observations on the wider Arctic environment too. However, the weather conditions were so extreme I couldn’t walk much…

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How I Did It: ‘Upstairs’

‘Upstairs’ is the pivotal poem in my collection Distance. Six years ago, illness forced my mother to live, sleep and eat in the downstairs part of the house. This was the inspiration for ‘Upstairs’. My original intention was to highlight how, in old age, we slowly lose the world we created. But to write it…

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How I Did It: ‘protest of the physical’

The long poem which makes up the centre of physical took about two years to write and then another three to sculpt into the version that exists in this collection. Around 2010 three things happened; I graduated from undergraduate study, I found out I’d got a grant to go on a free Arvon course and,…

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How I Did It: ‘Crocodile’

As a child I loved the London Natural History Museum. One free afternoon in the summer of 2010, I went back nostalgically with my husband only to regret the heat and school holiday hordes. I found myself lingering in front of a case that contained rounded stones in a range of sizes, quills lacking feathers,…

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How I Did It: ‘the Interrupters’

the Interrupters no two can meet the way we have met WS Graham a foyet like the day of the dead for it is full with missing children this is how violence starts, first the perception of a slight of an insult within the context of a culture that has taught the imperative that you…

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How I Did It: ‘The Ballad of the Small-Boned Daughter’

Shafilea Ahmed died in September 2003 aged 17. She was a British Pakistani girl from Warrington, Cheshire. She was a beautiful and spirited girl who was murdered in a so called ‘honour killing’ by her parents. Like so many others I watched the long gruesome trial in 2012 when her parents were finally convicted of…

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How I Did It: ‘Mort-Dieu’

It’s tempting to look at the title poem of An Aviary of Small Birds, as it not only expresses a literary influence (in particular, the poem references a mythical bird the Octobrine as coined by Pablo Neruda) but also encapsulates the high note I was reaching for, as a lyric and an elegy. However, the…

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How I Did It: ‘witchbundle’

Creating the premise for your poem is a tricky enough task on any given day. Besides the obvious self-critical murmurings of ‘is this worth writing about’, once you have an idea you then need to conjure your pen (or fingers) to create some magical syntax that relays your thoughts to the reader. How many hurdles…

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How I Did It: ‘On Ninjas’

I don’t really know why I decided to write about ninjas–I knew about them in a general pop-culture way, like most people, but I hadn’t read up about or studied them in particular. I liked the fact that, as a subject, they were non-realistic, not part of everyday life. I also thought it would be…

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How I Did It: ‘Poem in which the girl has no door on her mouth’

In Anne Carson’s essay The Gender of Sound (from Glass, Irony and God, printed as Glass and God in the UK edition, and strangely omitting The Gender of Sound altogether) she writes of ‘…the haunting garrulity of the nymph Echo (daughter of Iambe in Athenian legend) who is described by Sophokles as “the girl with…

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How I Did It: ‘The Cattle Farmer’s Tale’

Imagination, being by definition un-willed, often comes in unexpectedly, the result of some chance encounter or coincidence. We can’t will ourselves into a genuinely imaginative space. We can work with what imagination provides – uncover the form, improve the syntax, work to complete the poem – but imagination itself is uncanny, unbiddable. Imagination always takes…

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How I Did It: ‘On First Meeting Margot’

One Thursday afternoon in May 2014, I left my Poetry School class and headed to Waterloo for the train home. On Lower Marsh, I bumped into my friend Alice, who I had not seen for quite some time. With her was Margot, her small daughter whose father is a close friend of mine, the poet…

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