So you’re writing poetry. You have the time. You want to fill it with words. Perhaps you’re looking to perform your work or publish it. Or perhaps you’re still at the beginning of your literary journey.
Wherever you are, I offer three pieces of advice.
My first piece of advice is to remember. Jot down exactly how you’re feeling, what you’re observing. The biggest provider of a narrative isn’t technique or inspiration, but memory. Storytellers are collectors of memory. If you’re looking to tell your story through poetry, start collecting.
Keep a notebook. Use the voice recording app on your phone. Talk to your mother about your day. Keep a journal. There is no wrong way to collect memories, but the more forms you use, the wider your possibilities. Physically writing engages more of our brain. It’s slower, it forces you to think, to fill the spaces in your head with sense. Call me old-fashioned, but first drafts are meant to be hand-written.
My second piece of advice is to read. To be a writer is to be a reader. Essays and poems and novels and memoirs are portals of both learning and feeling. My favourite pieces of literature stay with me after I’ve read them. What this tells me is that words have the capacity to saturate or drain right out. How I use my words depends on how the writers I love, use their words.
My third piece of advice is to read your work out loud. We are oral creatures; we speak, even when no one can hear us. Words are, therefore, instruments, with rhythm and rhyme and tone. If you do read your work out loud, do it with love. Pause at the commas, breathe at the full stops. Better yet, send your piece to a friend, call them up, and hear them read it to you.
Perhaps you already read your work out loud and keep a notebook and read. If this is the case, I’d say that reading about writing is a weak excuse for not writing. And if you would like to take up my suggestions, I’d say the same.
We must write, whatever we can, whenever we can. Nothing else matters more.
If you would like to get an opportunity to hone your poetry skills under the mentorship of Pragya Bhagat, then apply now to be a part of Pragya’s Month-Long Poetry Academy 2020
About Pragya Bhagat:
Pragya Bhagat is a spoken word poet, award-winning essayist, and author of two fascinating books: More Than a Memory and Yarn – An Interwoven Memoir. Her work focuses on the intersection of themes such as mental health, belonging, and body image. Her poetry, essays, and fiction have been published in the Huffington Post, The Wire and Helter Skelter, amongst others. She currently lives in Goa.
Rheea Rodrigues Mukherjee is the author of The Body Myth (Unnamed Press /Penguin India 2019) which was shortlisted for the Tata Literature Live First Book Award. Her work has been published and featured in Scroll.in, Southern Humanities Review, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Vogue India, Out of Print, TBLM, and Bengal Lights, among others. She co-founded Bangalore Writers Workshop in 2012 and currently co-runs Write Leela Write, a Design and Content Laboratory in Bangalore, India. Rheea has an MFA in creative writing from California College of the Arts.