I still remember the first ‘proper’ poem that I ever wrote. I was in primary school, probably, year 5, and everyone had to write a poem about a knight. I don’t remember why, exactly. The topic fired my imagination (and to be totally honest, it still does, knights, horseback, jousting, awesome!) and I got stuck in straight away. Once I’d written the poem, I drew a picture of a knight’s helmet (helm?) complete with red feathers. And then, in the very best handwriting my nine year old self could manage, I wrote the poem up over the top. It was brilliant, so brilliant that it went on the wall (with all the rest!).
I have never forgotten that feeling, of writing something that I thought was great. Even better, other people liked it too – I used to recite it to my friends in the playground, stamping up and down to the rhythm. Even the teachers said it was good. And I can still remember the whole thing, 30 years later:
Long, long ago there lived a brave, brave knight,
And when he went to battle, his opponents got a fright,
For when he went to battle, he always carried there
A big, red dragon’s head, with a shock of bright-green hair.
And when they saw this dragon’s head,
Their knees began to knock
Their hearts began to beat quite fast –
Tick tick, tick tock, tick tock.
Everybody ran away as fast as fast could be
So then the knight went home again, to see about his tea.
As a teenager and 20-something I carried on writing poetry. It wasn’t about knights any more (sadly), and took on a more personal note. In my late 20s, I discovered confessional poetry, and it became a really important place for me to write out things in my life which were difficult, or traumatic. But the difference was, I stopped sharing it. Somewhere on the journey to being a grown-up, I lost the confidence to share my writing.
And then? Then I became a teacher.
Creative writing, for me, is the life-blood of literature. As much as I love to read, I also love to write, to turn my experiences and feelings into something that (hopefully) others connect with. And so, over the last four years, my writing has stopped just mouldering in my (many) scrapbooks and is actually emerging out into the light. First of all, I shared it with my students and partner, and then, as she is growing bigger, I started to share it with my daughter. And one of the poems that I read with her is about the knight, the poem that I wrote as a little girl, and do you know what? She loves it and stamps up and down as we say it out loud too.
So, why did I enter a poetry competition? Not because I’m trying to win, not for any other reason but because I want to share my work and to challenge myself to get better at writing…
…And of course, I want to make my daughter and my students proud too.
Image from MaxPixel.