Conjuring up memories – possible starting points for autobiographical poems. Have a go!

Following a prompt from The Poetry School course on Poetry and Autobiographical writing, I let myself think about six events I remember from my first nine years. It seems that some are events that will have resonances for lots of you, others are more particular to me. Nevertheless, I found it really enjoyable ; it has given me too many starting points, so I think I might concentrate on the first two and the last one. Here they are:

6 memories


School milk in summer was blood warm, in wintery jutting ice lollies in glass mouths. Columns of concrete and rocking horses. 

Holiday in Porthcawl.


Trecco Bay sitting on caravan steps in brown leather Clarks sandals, shorts and Aertex t shirt. Banana sandwiches, windbreaks and headscarves and aunts , sitting on Mum’s knee in a gabardine.

Learning piano

I trekked up the hill with my brother to lessons. Practising in a cold front room on a piano with yellowed keys and candle holders. Later Dad chopped it up as it howled in protest.

Getting a dog. 

A cardboard box of delights. Cold black nose pushing through. Tail like a pennant and feathered ears.

Visits to Relatives

aust ferry

Dark evenings driving through country lanes in the back of our Vauxhall Velux, bouncing wildly on leather to the last Aust Ferry.

Hairdressing visits with Mum

perm curlers

Handing perm papers and spiky curlers to her as I sat on an elephant legged stool decorated with ivory tusks, plaster heads of turbaned men on the wall like flying ducks.

All three memories are very intense, and are not restricted to visuals; I clearly recall the sour taste of blackcurrants in a pie , the smell of the curdled milk, the pungent smell of perming solution, the texture of bananas, my brown knees …The challenge is to find some structure for the poem that will hold them together because they are so disparate. I am already working on a sonnet, so I wonder if something along the lines of Thomas Hood’s ‘I remember, I remember’ might work. I will post my drafts for this and the sonnet soon.


New Year’s Resolutions #poetry and #cake

Hello all! My last post concerned the value of good writing habits, and how they formed part of my resolutions. I am happy to report that I have kept one resolution and broken another… Here is the evidence to convict me:


This was the last but one bit of my boozy Christmas cake, which I said I wasn’t going to have. On the positive side, it got me started on my 30 minutes of writing, which seems to have been quite productive. I’m working on a series of poetic memoirs- semi autobiographical, biographical, and imagined pasts, presents and futures.

I found this photo in a pile of my dad’s papers; I don’t remember that time in the garden exactly, but all the warmth and safety of that time came back to me. It shows me on my sister’s knee with my youngest brother in the cowboy outfit. It seems to me to be redolent of its time and to have a simplicity and joy about it. It led to the beginnings of a poem about the garden and the memories of being in it at different times in my life, with different people and of what that garden meant. I don’t know if it will be a good poem, but it will be something precious to me, like this photo.

.in the garden copy

I’ll share more later. 🙂

#poems don’t always come easily- or, January blues, #resolutions and good intentions.

This new year has started with several rejections and failures to win prizes for poems which i thought were jolly good on the whole, but am I downhearted? Well, a bit. I put it down to the cold I have; after looking after everyone else at Christmas through their aches and pains and illnesses, now that I have time to write, I don’t have the energy.

I am managing to write the daily journal diarywhich is my sop to the mantra that you should write something every day. My daughter bought me a five year journal and it has become my habit, no matter how tired, emotional or otherwise reluctant I might be feeling, to write a few lines every night before bed. I even wrote on New Year’s Eve, after several fine glasses of champagne- but I haven’t read it back yet. It really is testament to the fact that an action repeated daily soon becomes a habit. Therefore my New Year’s Resolution, along with trying only to buy books from independent book shops, is to establish a genuine daily writing habit.

I have found many reasons why this is not feasible – but they are all nonsense, truly. I have therefore entered into my calendar a daily slot of 30 minutes in which I will write something. Here is what I started to write today. It is just a few jottings on something I would like to write, a sonnet, or perhaps -horror- a villanelle . I want to challenge myself to use form as starting points rather than defaulting to free verse. Wish me luck!

A Letter Follows

This Postcard is to let you know
I have been admitted to hospital
You must not fret,
it is only my head that hurts,
my body quite untouched.
The nurse says I will be better directly
although I cannot look at her today,
perhaps she is not there.
I hope to be discharged soon
the day may not always be
filled with horses
I have received no letter from you
for a long time