Making poetry

Did you know that the English word ‘poet’ comes from an Ancient Greek word that can mean a maker or an inventor as well as someone who writes verse?

The idea of the poet as a maker has been important down the ages. In the late 1300s the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about himself as a ‘maker’ of poetry. Today, the national poet of Scotland is known as The Scots Makar because in Older Scots, one of the languages of Scotland, the word ‘makar’ means ‘poet’ as well as ‘someone who makes things’.

Last week in Step 1.4, we thought about poems as rooms. We imagined ourselves visiting those rooms and reflecting on the impact that they had on us as readers. This week, you’re going to become the maker. By becoming a poet, you learn in new ways about the tools, techniques and building materials out of which poetry is made. You’ll become more confident in your own choices, and you’ll better understand the decisions that other poets make when they construct verse.

Reading and writing poetry aren’t separate activities. When we write poetry, we get to know the process of making verse from the inside. That can help us as we read poetry, because it gives us a better understanding of the choices and decisions that an author makes as they build a poem. When we read poems by other writers, we gain a greater awareness of poetic traditions which we can work with or resist. The more we read, the more we develop a knowledge of different styles and techniques, forms and structures. And we can experiment with all of those building materials in creating our own poetry.

Making poetry, or building verse, gives us a new way to respond to our literary inheritance – to the texts that have travelled through time and space to meet us here, in the present. It lets us create new literature for our own time and for the future. And, crucially, writing poetry gives us time and space to think about the place that we occupy in this world. Poetry allows us to express who we are – our values, our beliefs, our thoughts, our feelings, our selves.

In the next Step, you’ll hear from Professor Peter Robinson, who shares his own experience and thoughts about being a maker.


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A-level Study Boost: Unseen Poetry and the Creative Process

University of Reading