Monday 8 August 2022

Jackie Wills, "On Poetry: Reading, Writing & Working with Poems"

Jackie Wills has worked for newspapers, magazines and several universities. A former journalist, she’s also worked in business, schools, arts and community organisations, including Unilever, London Underground, Shoreham Airport, the Surrey Hills, the London Symphony Orchestra and Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. She has been a Royal Literary Fund Fellow and run reading groups.

Over three decades, Wills has organised live poetry events and mentored many emerging writers, consolidating her experience in The Workshop Handbook for Writers (Arc, 2016). Her poems feature in several anthologies including Writing Motherhood (Seren, 2017) and Poems of the Decade: An Anthology of the Forward Books of Poetry (Forward Arts Foundation, 2015). Wills has collaborated over many years with visual artist Jane Fordham.

About On Poetry: Reading, Writing & Working with Poems, by Jackie Wills

We begin with a drive to write something that’s never been said before, to protest, to offload, to challenge or catch the zeitgeist. We imagine we write like the poets we admire. Slowly we learn the craft, understanding eventually that a writer’s indentured for life.

Drawing on decades of experience as a poet and tutor, this compelling book is part hands-on guide and part reflection on ways that poetry can make a difference to how we live. It is also a survey of many varied and inspirational writers, especially women poets, especially from the end of the twentieth century. Jackie Wills is herself a brilliantly insightful poets; and, as the sections on writing workshops show, she is also an outstanding teacher. The final section of this unique book offers starting points and resources that will prove essential for new and experienced poets alike.

You can see more details about On Poetry on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read a short excerpt from the Introduction. 

From On Poetry

In the decade I was a mother with young children I bought a calendar with a quote from a poem for each of the 365 days to come. Sometimes reading a couple of lines was about all I could manage but it meant that in the middle of making breakfast, finding shoes under the sofa, combing hair and packing up lunches, I’d hear Emily Dickinson speaking to me from another century and she’d set off a line of thought that walked with me up the hill and down to their primary school. I was juggling writing with earning a living and bringing up children, was often exhausted, but even so, those lines attached to dates were reminders of how lucky I was, and still am, to have the means to read, write, publish. In the old-fashioned way, I stuck some into an exercise book and my homemade anthology lives on a shelf next to my desk holding its pinpricks of thought.

For more than 20 years I’ve sat with groups of people at different stages of their writing lives, experiencing the liberation of metaphor – a child realising they can find words for the other worlds in their head, a man or woman released from the constraints of caring, illness or addiction, from fear of the past and the future, from the demands of work, for an hour or so by listening to a poem and writing their own. Poetry allowed me to do this. And when I read for myself, sometimes flicking through an anthology, sometimes concentrating on a collection for a book group, I am in awe of human invention.

When I began to earn a living running writing workshops, this work kept me reading widely, looking for new poets or poems to use as examples. It focused me on form, on what worked in a poem and it helped me understand how we use the tools of metaphor and language. I used model poems in writing exercises because a mechanic learns to put an engine together by taking it apart. I remembered a big old engine from my Morris Traveller suspended out of its rightful place when the head gasket blew. A poem has to be oily and heavy too. When I embarked on this work, though, I realised how little I’d read. I’ve come to terms with never catching up, but pledged to stretch as a reader. It’s humbling to face this truth about yourself, that however much you think you’ve read, it’s not enough. The flipside is to enjoy the many different ways people express the world, and to accept that there’s some writing you’ll get on with and some you’ll dislike.

No comments:

Post a Comment