#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 Rachael Allen, whose collection Kingdomland (Faber) was a PBS Spring Choice 2019.
What is your advice for a poet starting out?
To just read and write. I think the concept of starting out can be divided in two; the realisation that you want to be published and writing for this, and writing as a kind of thinking practice (without the goal of publication in mind). It’s impossible to not think about publication, as that’s what so much ‘success’ seems to be predicated on. In this vein, I would suggest finding the small presses / communities that seem appealing, make zines, publish broadsides, realise that publication can take many forms. At the same time, use writing to think things through, and see making poems not through the short-term lens of being published but as a lifelong way of thinking about and articulating the world and experiences.
How do you overcome writers block?
Visual art helps me if I feel stuck, otherwise, reading and reading. I am powered 90% by pure jealousy of other peoples’ brilliance.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
Penelope Shuttle years ago told me not to worry about fads and books of the moment, that good work can take years to emerge. That ‘cream rises’, and to be patient.
What was the worst criticism you’ve received? What’s your advice on dealing with rejection?
Dealing with rejection is always going to sting, but I would say, use the sting to write / send out more work. Plath said, ‘I love my rejections slips. They show me I try.’ I can’t remember where I read that John Ashbery failed to get some fellowship he applied for 6 times when he was young. We’re faced daily with everyone’s achievements, behind that’s a full iceberg of things that didn’t work out, it helps to remember that.
Is failure important for a poet?
I think to believe in failure I’d have to believe in an idea of success, which I don’t really. All that matters is that you’re making the work you feel is most necessary.
Have a look at the rest of our #PoeTips interviews for even more brilliant poetry advice from leading poets. Happy writing!
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.