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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsSo Michael, what tools do you need to write a poem? I'm not sure what tools I need apart from some space in the inside of my head and at some point, although it doesn't have to be very early in the process, some way of recording it. So for me, that is usually pen and paper. Sometimes if I'm on a train or something, I'll write something down on my phone or email myself some notes about something. So there comes a point, I think, where you've been storing it and looking over in your head and perhaps sounding it out as well.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 secondsBecause hearing yourself say it, however quietly, obviously if you're on a train that can be embarrassing, but you need at some point to hear it. Because poetry is a kind of form of music, isn't it? But then the ideas start to accelerate. And that's the point at which you need either to email yourself or make a note on a phone or write it down. So I tend to use just a series of notebooks and a pen. And if I've got them to hand, that's my set of tools. How about you? Very similar to mine. I'm much of the same.

Skip to 1 minute and 22 secondsI was thinking about your idea that the tools that we need are kind of physical, it's the page, but also acoustic. I remember Ocean Vuong, when he was reading in Manchester, saying that for him the air was a second page. So we need two types of page maybe. But beyond that, I can write pretty much anywhere, and similarly to you. We were talking earlier about the idea that, I think it was Goethe who had to have the scent of rotting apples or something very specific like that. Do you have any really specific things that you need? No. The smell of coffee, or more the taste of it, often plays a part. But that's not a particular trigger.

Skip to 2 minutes and 2 secondsI think it's more just I'm a caffeine addict. But there is-- writers have their rituals famously I think. And also by changing the rituals, they can sometimes change and challenge themselves, change the way they work. So there are a number of writers, for example, at various points in the 20th century who switched from writing their first drafts with pen to a manual typewriter. And some of the mid 20th century generation of poets found there were great changes possible for them. They changed the way they looked at the poetic line by having to type it out, having to think it out.

Skip to 2 minutes and 45 secondsAnd even now, you've got some quite prominent novelists, I think Will Self has just done this, who go back to manual typewriters. Because there's something about that process that's better for them than writing first drafts on computers or handwriting them. So there's all sorts of ways in which we can change the tools in order to change the way we see what we're doing. Actually for me, I think a lot of the tools, are this kind of thing, it's the stuff that I've been reading, particularly in the run up to writing something. So often to get myself in the mood to write a poem myself, I need to hear poetry by someone else or need to read poems by somebody else.

Skip to 3 minutes and 22 secondsAnd that always makes me want to write. Or some of it might be researched. This is an article about Alison Hargreaves, who I wrote about a lot in my last collection. And the more I read about Alison's life and her climbing and her mountaineering adventures, the more I felt compelled to sit down and try and write something myself. I think you're right. That's a really interesting point. If you interpret, what are the tools that a writer needs, that a poet needs, they're very broad.

Skip to 3 minutes and 48 secondsThey can extend to going for a walk at a key point, to books, as you say, books by other writers are crucial tools, and some kind of access to a research library or the research library we all have available to us via the internet. These are all part of the things you pull in in the process of making poems. One of my tools is that I sometimes use RhymeZone. I write quite a lot in rhymes. So I use RhymeZone on the computer to give myself options for words. That's probably a really bad thing to admit to. But I think it can be really useful, actually, stuff like that, like a rhyming dictionary or whatever.

Skip to 4 minutes and 27 secondsIt's no different from the great poets of the pre-internet era writing lists of rhymes down the right hand side of a page before they have actually decided on the words the lines that are leading up to them. Yeah, it's just faster. That's right. A little quicker.

Welcome to Week 2

Welcome to Week 2! We hope you enjoyed Week 1. In the first week, we looked at what a poem is made from—its raw material. We created an enormous group poem, couplets made from other poems (a cento), and our own found poetry. We also read a lot of new poems.

This week we will be considering the tools you use to shape and craft your work. We will be using the theme of tools to write more of our own material! We will also be looking at more poems to help us answer the question: What kind of poems are possible?

There are so many types of poems to choose from. In fact, every poem is a series of choices. Many of these decisions happen without us even noticing. So, where does our sense of what a poem is come from? It might include what we’ve read, what we’ve been taught and what is suggested by the wider culture we find ourselves in.

We might also be influenced by the actual tools we use to make a poem, whether this is pen and paper, or whether the poem for you is primarily a spoken thing, shaped out of air. In the video (above), Helen and Michael discuss their preferred writing tools. Discuss what Helen and Michael think of as the tools of writing. What are your own preferences?

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How To Make A Poem

Manchester Metropolitan University

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