|Reading a poem is serious business.|
Septentrian Baronial Investiture 2015.
Photo by Master Eirik Andersen.
Once I have a topic (usually a person) I then carry out some research on them. I try to find out what their persona is (time and place), as well as what their interests are and specific bits of personal lore that I may be able to draw on (for instance, favourite colours, animals, activities, and so on).
Having determined the topic's time and place in history I then do some more research on the poetic traditions of that time and place. If the person I am going to write about has a 10th century Irish persona, then I will try to write the poem about them in a 10th century Irish style. This can actually take longer than writing the actual poem, as there are numerous poetic genres, forms and devices for every time and place. I began to keep a catalogue of this information (which I displayed at the Spring A&S Faire) so I would always have it easily accessible. I would urge other poets to do the same if they are thinking of writing in various styles.
It is only at this point that I will sit down and begin writing the poem. I usually just start throwing out lines, not worrying about scansion to start. After I have written the requisite number of lines to match the format I've selected I will go back and rewrite the lines to meet the requirements of the style. Sometimes, when writing I will actually start with the last line of a verse so I can build up to where I want to go, rather than trying to come up with a conclusion for what I have already written. Wrangling with words can take time and patience, and sometimes I find that I need to toss out a line (or even a whole verse) and start over. This is all part of the process.
Once I've wrestled the words into the format my chosen style required, I read it out loud to see how it flows. If it is technically sound, but does not read well aloud, I will again go back and tinker with the words, rearranging their order in the line, replacing some words with new words, all the time trying to make sure that I am still meeting the style's requirements.
Sometimes my finished piece will not be perfect. I may have had to sacrifice an inner rhyme, or an instant of consonance, to make the piece meet my needs. and this is ok. Writing is a process, and it only gets better with practice. The next time, I vow, I will be able to do it better.
I hope, for those that were interested, that this gives you an insight into my process, and maybe will find encouragement to try writing some poems of your own. I look forward to reading them.