When writing, I try to think of a poem as a living thing. A poem moves and breathes; it may have a texture or a scent; it possesses vitality. I’m drawn to poems that seem to leap off the page at me, that pull me in, that pulse with heat and sound. Complicated language and phrasing might not be the thing that necessarily brings your poem to life. Consider instead how your lines move across the page, how your poem makes use of white space, or how you might evoke images and memories in surprising ways. 

When I get stuck, I’m a big fan of forcing myself to do a bit of timed writing. This involves picking a topic or an image or a question, setting a timer on my phone for 7-8 minutes, and writing by hand without stopping. If I get stuck, I try to keep my pen moving on the page by repeating myself until a new thought appears. Sometimes, something weird and interesting will come out of that act of repetition. Never be afraid to experiment. 

If I’m struggling to find the form that feels right for a poem, I might try out some set poetic forms, such as the Golden Shovel or even a sonnet. I recently tried a new one, a form called a “Germination” invented by the UK poet Natalie Linh Bolderston, and it really tested me. I almost gave up. But I took my time with it and kept going, crossing lines out and trying again, and after a while, I had something of a tiny breakthrough. When that happened, it felt like an adrenaline rush. Following a set of rules you wouldn’t normally impose on yourself can be surprisingly liberating, leading you to new places you didn’t know you could go.

My three favourite poems currently: 

Canopy by Emily Berry

Tian’anmen Sonnet by Wendy Xu 

All Suns by Ruben Mita 

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Competitions, Judges