Let’s see about writing a poem. What first? An idea, something to write about. I’ll check my list of possible titles/themes/ideas. OK, here’s one that looks likely, ‘specially since this posting is about making a poem.

Huge ball of poetry.

There’s my title; by implication it’s also my subject. So far, so good. What next? Something about a huge ball of poetry. Well, yes, but what? What is a huge ball of poetry? The answer probably lies inside. Inside the writing, I mean. Usually a piece of writing gradually says what it’s about as the words appear on the page, stretching out in a long string. I’m intrigued to see where the words are going and what will lie at the end of the string. That looks like a good image for a huge ball of poetry; a coiled up string, rolled around this way and that, over and over, strands crisscrossing, words touching each other which weren’t together in the sequence of the writing but are now tangled and twined so that coming on one, we’re falling over another which wasn’t originally tied to it at all. A bit like that last sentence which managed to go on for almost four lines, one thought leading to the next, then snaking back, a serpent trying to swallow its tail (or should that be tale?)

Have I got enough to make a poem? Well, I’ll start and see where we go.


… and this word

will be followed by that one and

then the next after it will be the one that’s meant

to follow it in some sort of agreement to keep sense and not

muck up the meaning of what the words together are supposed to be saying

so long as they’re in an order that is familiar but of course it doesn’t matter too much

since poetry can break the rules of grammar and even syntax in order to create a sense of

a feeling or the flight of the air through the winding paths of the forest or over the jumping

 waves of the sea or maybe around the flittering tails of a herd of wild horses galloping across

the steppe which stretches all the way from the coldness of the Arctic shore to the warm

lapping edge of  the great Caspian Sea where lived the ancestors of people

who some day would travel to that sunny sanctuary lying in the vast

southern ocean which somehow balances the continental

 land masses sitting on the top of the world instead of

being spread more evenly across

 the hemispheres…

Is this a poem? Let’s review what we’ve got. A huge ball of words all caught up together. Yet not too hard to follow those words along the line one after another. You may not be able to see at the beginning where those words are going be at the end, but that’s what good writing does, keeps you in suspense, at the same time gradually revealing more and more of what the writer wants to say — or at least what the writer finds himself saying (not quite the same thing when you think about it).

What else is there? Check for the usual criteria. It’s one continuous run-on line; it doesn’t have end rhyme; it’s without regular metre — though there are internal rhymes and a feeling of rhythm is present. Some may dismiss any claim that it’s verse. Others will insist this piece of writing — this huge ball of words — is emphatically a poem.

Enough! Let it be a poem or let it be just a jumble of words. For me, however, the words go somewhere, say something, and from the beginning of writing,  the beginning of poetry, its entire history, that’s been enough.

Ruari Jack Hughes

Another 500 Words

Have you ever thought about how fast you speak? Despite English being a fairly slowly spoken language (If you don’t think so, have a listen to someone speaking Spanish in a lively conversation), we, most of us, get through about two hundred words per minute on the average. Unless you’re a hermit or very anti-social, that means you chew up literally thousands upon thousands of words every day in ordinary conversation. 

Why is it then so hard for us writers to get a miserable 500 words on paper in a typical day sitting before the computer or scribbling on a pad?  I’ve just written slightly more than 100 words (up to here) for this posting in less than ten minutes (in between mouthfuls of a delicious terrine of chicken pate and pistachio paste washed down with a cappuccino). Yet earlier today it took me nearly three hours to produce a barely 500 word extension to a chapter in my novella.

At the beginning of the year I set myself a goal to complete (perhaps I should say extend) this work by approximately 13,000 words by the end of March. After a vigorous editing (and  unsentimental pruning), I found I would actually need another 16,000 words. Well, here I am, only a week short of my deadline and nowhere near completion.

Of course I can tick off a string of reasons/excuses/craven attempts at explanation —serious illness involving hospitalisation; unexpected and complicated matters in the daily business of surviving in the madhouse that is contemporary living; sheer procrastination which comes as second nature — but do any of these really point to the core of the problem?

From much that I’ve read in the peregrinations on their work by other poets, novelists, dramatists, as well as the discussions I’ve had with my own writerly associates, it’s clear this difficulty in getting words on paper is a common curse. My question persists. When we can blather on almost ad infinitum, if not ad nauseum, why is it so hard to scratch down a mere 500 of the little blighters on a page? I’m seventy percent of the way to 500 words in this posting and it’s been a doddle. But wait until tomorrow when I try to get another half ton loaded into the novella. It will seem like Sisyphus climbing up that everlasting hill. Two steps forward and roll back down the mount.

One hundred to go! Is this how we should write? Churning it out like some product on a conveyor belt? What happened to creativity? Spontaneity? Serendipity? Is Woody right, that it’s only 10% inspiration and the rest is perspiration? Where’s the Romance? What happened to the Muse who just alights on my shoulder with fully formed, matchless phrases and couplets only needing to be set down on the page, words which just flow from the mind, down the arm and through the fingers to repose in all their beauty and for all time’s ages in the little books which readers will always cherish? 

Oh, wotalotarot!                          Maybe this poem will suit you better?

My Word

Someday I will stop,

And the words will stop / still.

Only one word will be / still.

So many words I gather to me.

I am desperate / for words;

I go on / only by words.

The words, the words!

They gnaw at my body,

They tear at my reason.

They strip me / bare / me

Until only the core is left.

The word was spoken,

It only sounded like a beginning.

The one word of truth

Is the word of death.

In the basis of my being

Was my undoing, my end,

All settled / before it began.

Someday I will stop

And the words will stop / still.

The sentence will be finished.

                                                                                                            Ruari Jack Hughes