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.


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