#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 Deryn Rees-Jones – one of our ‘Next Generation’ poets and author of PBS Summer Recommendation Erato.
Q: When do you write? Do you think a routine is helpful?
A: Routines are helpful for carving space, especially if you have caring responsibilities that need to be juggled with other kinds of work. Routines bring emotional space and time, legitimise what can seem fruitless work, even if regular time set aside is short. For me having a regular space to write anything first thing in the day or last thing at night is a good way of uncovering preoccupations, surprising myself. I think routines can also offer something that’s the equivalent of muscle memory. To get better at anything, you have to practise.
Q: How do you know when a poem is finished?
A: Every time you write a poem you start again. Sometimes things happen quickly, sometimes it can take years for a poem to find its proper mode of habitation. I think as writers we enter into a contract of trust, with ourselves, with our friends, with our editors, with our readers, when sending a poem out. Yes, practically, we have to think about stopping work on a poem. But isn’t it more about when a poem is properly ready to be part of a useful exchange?
Q: How do you overcome writers block?
A: I am a firm believer that sometimes not writing can be useful. Not writing can be a way of processing difficulty, of making better poems. I am very wary of the poet who is always writing, and who publishes carelessly, too much. Nevertheless I do think it’s important to keep reading and writing as a way of engaging with ‘the poem not written’. If it’s a matter of confidence, of owning the right to write, then that is a different thing. Being part of a reading and writing community can help with that.
Q: What was the worst criticism you’ve received? What’s your advice on dealing with rejection?
A: I’m interested in criticism because it’s what I do in the other part of my poetry life. Criticism at its best opens up our responses, makes us alert, allows reflection. Poets need criticism. The worst thing is to be lazily read. Rejections are just part of what happens. Use them to develop your work. To resist the critical engagement of someone whose thinking you value is really resisting a chance to develop, however painful that might be.
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.