Tuesday, 10 April 2012


10:49:00 Posted by Lara Clayton , , , , , , 4 comments

I find that poetry changes the way in which you see the world; the more you write, read and engage with poetry, the more you notice. Eyes, once immature and full of glances, learn to focus, to be steady and to be patient. Like the zoom lens on a camera, life-size is magnified. Thought, rather than being merely an okra seed, becomes a coiled woodlouse; an armoured marble; an ammonite carved into snakestone, complete with the legend of Saint Hilda.

In poetry, it is not the form or the size of the poem that determines whether it could be classified as large or small, but rather it is the subject, the thought, or the idea contained within the parameters of the form. For example, the haiku is small (with  its seventeen syllables), yet its subject is often thought, traditionally, to be great – starting with a macro view of the world and then becoming more specific (the micro view).

Often, within my own poetry, I find myself using this macro/micro technique – beginning with a large image and then zooming in on a smaller detail. It is these little, usually unnoticed, observations that create the depth and prevent the poem from being merely a backdrop. You want to surprise the reader: tell them something new, give them a different view of the world.


Compost and soot from allotment bonfires
is forked into the freshly dug soil.

Old wardrobes and skirting boards
are cut to make raised beds.

A rusty swing frame is draped with green netting –
ready for when the runner beans start to climb.

Thank you for reading,


Ashley R Lister said...

Excellent post (as always).

I have to ask - what are those things in the picture?


Jim Murdoch said...

I have always favoured an aphoristic style of poetry and it’s rare for any of my poems to be more than a few lines long. Longer poems are fine where there’s a narrative—‘Tam o’ Shanter’ or ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’—but, for me, compression is everything. I often say, “Say what you have to say and get off the page.” I’m also fond of punch lines—which your poem lacks—because I think it’s particularly helpful to the reader to go out with a bang, a bit like the moral at the end of a fable. Had this been my poem I would have probably added, as a final line: “What goes around comes around.” Zooming in on images is fine but without a setting or a context it’s sometimes hard to join the dots. I find this with art. Sometimes I’ll look at a diptych (or a triptych in your case) and struggle to see the connection between the images. This is where a creative title, as opposed to a label—which I’m as guilty as the next poet for using—helps so, rather than adding that extra line, changing the title to ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’ might work better. This is just me thinking out loud of course. It’s your poem and I don’t mean to criticise. I’m just trying to illustrate how I might have tackled the material.

Nikki Magennis said...

Great post and I like the images in the poem, Lara.

(I'd just like to say that were I you and had I written this poem, I'm fairly sure it would have come out word for word exactly the same.)

vicky ellis said...

Lara, you always make me notice the little things I hadn't spotted. I think it's something you are exceptionally good at. Evocation. That's what you do :)