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#NaturesPoets: what place inspires your poetry?

To celebrate the start of Lancaster University’s free online course “William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place,” we’re challenging you to write a poem inspired by your favourite place.

The lake at Grasmere - one of William Wordsworth's sources of inspiration

Wordsworth transformed English poetry, initiating the Romantic movement in Britain, which was all about self-expression, identity and place – in short, appreciating the world around you.

So we’re challenging you, as well as poets and creative writers, to write a Romantic poem based on a place that inspires you. You can then:

  • share a picture of the place, along with the poem it inspired, on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #NaturesPoets;
  • or leave your poem as a comment below, along with a link to a picture of the place that inspired it.

Try your hand at Wordsworth’s own writing techniques

Writing poems on the spot is by no means easy, so to help, we asked Sally Bushell, Professor of Romantic and Victorian Literature at Lancaster University – one of the world’s leading scholars of how poems are written – about Wordsworth’s owning writing techniques:

The lake at Grasmere - one of William Wordsworth's sources of inspiration

As a Romantic poet, Wordsworth took interest in the world around him and our engagement with it.  He celebrated the power of the mind to internalise the natural world and be strengthened by it. His poetry asserts the power of a subjective, individual response to the world.

Still, even Wordsworth had trouble starting his writing, so he developed various techniques and strategies that helped him. From studying his notebooks and reading his sister Dorothy’s journals, we know about some of the techniques he used to release his creativity. These include:

  1. Returning to his favourite places around Grasmere (pictured above), where he lived, to write. Wordsworth liked a private space, where he could pace up and down as he wrote his poetry.
  2. Writing poems on the spot, in a direct response to the natural world.
  3. Drawing on accounts of characters and scenes in Dorothy’s journals.
  4. Starting a new poem by using a piece already written somewhere else.
  5. Copying out and revising an old poem as a way of kick-starting a new poem.
  6. Writing in the back of the notebook rather than the front.
  7. Working on something other than the poem he was meant to be writing.
  8. Sharing his writing with his best friend, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Five tips for writing poetry about place

And here are five tips from Sally, to help you write your own poetry about place:

  1. Be specific: accurate details of place – and of, for example, the flowers and plants that grow in that place – will make a big difference to your writing.
  2. Visit it: go to the place you want to write about and write on the spot (or make notes on the spot and write the poem later). You will see and hear things you did not anticipate or predict, and this will help to relieve your creativity.
  3. Make every word count: poetry differs from the novel mainly in this way. Every word should be exactly the right word for what you are trying to say, be as concise as possible.
  4. Focus on the core message of your poem: what is it you really want to convey about this place? Why is it of value to you? Ensure you have communicated the power of your own subjective response.
  5. Don’t expect your first draft to be perfect: this is a romantic myth! All great writers revise and rework their poems considerably.

Now you know how to write a Romantic poem, visit your favourite place, and share a picture of it and the poem it inspires using #NaturesPoets. Or to learn more, join the free online course, “William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place.”

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