#PoeTips are back! This time bigger and better, with more advice from your favourite poets. This blog post is one of a series in which we interview poets in order to uncover their golden nuggets of wisdom. In this post, we interviewed Alex Corrin-Tachibana, who was shortlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize 2018, and has had poems published in Snakesin, Typishly, Eunoia Review, and Silver Needle Press.
Q: What is your advice for a poet starting out?
Don’t let anyone put you off by asking you about how many publications you have!
Read widely, find poets you like, and make notes about what, specifically, draws you to their work. For example, I appreciate the lucidity of Billy Collins and his irreverence about poets and poetry. And don’t be afraid to send work out –– this raises the stakes and helps me up my game.
Q: How do you find inspiration?
A: Life experience is a big one. Often, a poignant memory will trigger something. I lived for a decade in Japan, until 2006, and am in an Anglo-Japanese marriage, so cultural differences crop up a lot in my poems. My son also inspires me, especially when I hone in on the way he uses language to interpret the world.
Q: How do you overcome writers block?
A: I haven’t been blocked for ideas but I have felt ‘blocked’ in terms of feeling I have nowhere left to go with a poem: that I have gone ‘blind’ to my poem. Collaborating with others and getting feedback helps –– sometimes even if you disagree with feedback simply revisiting a poem and reading it out aloud makes things clearer.
Q: Could you suggest a writing prompt which you have found useful?
A: Using resonant objects that mean something to me. Starting out by writing a few lines about them –– maybe scrutinising and just describing at first, then seeing what associations emerge, where that might take me, and whether they yield metaphors. This worked successfully with a Japanese Kokeshi doll and a glass ornament containing Japanese cherry blossom, acting as triggers for something bigger, and leading me to consider weightier matters than the object in front of me.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve received?
A: Glyn Maxwell suggested thinking about how your poem could be performed, and whether you would be able to make it work on stage. He suggested that if it wasn’t ready for performance then perhaps the poem wasn’t ready.
I found this advice extremely helpful, it got me thinking more about voices in the poem and who is the addressee, and thinking in terms of props helps ensure lines are grounded in concrete details and sensory language. The parallel with performance also reminds me of the importance of narrative and climax and of the soundscape of a poem, as well as taking us back to the roots of poetry, when all poetry was performed.
Q: What was the worst criticism you’ve received? What’s your advice on dealing with rejection?
A: The worst criticism was not a rejection, but some feedback that my poem was ‘aggressive’. It served as an important reminder that a poem is no longer yours once let out into the world! I find it helpful to know that the development of any poem, even a ‘failed poem’, will ultimately feed into something further down the line that you would probably not have written without its predecessor.
We're delighted to announce that submissions to the Women's Poetry Competition and Pamphlet Competition are now open!
This is the second year we have partnered with Mslexia to bring you two exciting competitions promoting women's poetry. The top prize for the Women's Poetry Competition will be £2,000, mentorship with PBS Selector Sandeep Parmar, and a residency kindly offered by Cove Park. The winner of the Women's Pamphlet Competition will receive £250 at publication of their pamphlet by Seren.
Entries are open from the 1st of June until the 16th of September, 5pm GMT. You can submit online by clicking the Submittable button below, or click here for more information about the prizes, including the terms and conditions, and alternative ways to submit.