Last month, Writers'Talkback, run by Writers’ News, ran a quick one-day poetry competition to commemorate National Poetry Day (in Britain). The theme was ‘Home’. I don’t normally write much poetry and I don’t enter many competitions, but the muse struck me that day and I wrote a hasty poem about the untidy state of my home. Much to my surprise and pleasure, I won. I hasten to add here though, that there weren’t many entries – not surprising given the one-day time limit.
The prize was “a poetry book”. While I waited for it to be sent, a friend and I discussed which poetry book it might be, joking that it would be a book by Pam Ayres. It finally arrived the other day and was, in fact two books – “The Nation’s Favourite Comic Poems” edited by Griff Rhys Jones and “Writing Poetry” by Doris Corti. There are some old favourites in the poetry book – Lewis Carroll, AA Milne, Edward Lear, Spike Milligan – plus a few I’d never heard of.
The poem that grabbed my attention, though, was one entitled, “Oh, I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth”. I didn’t look to see who’d written it, but as soon as I started reading, my brain slipped into the unmistakable voice of Pam Ayres. When I looked, sure enough, that was who had written it. I’d not heard it before, but her voice was clear from the start.
How I’d love to have voice in my writing that is so clearly mine, for someone to be able to read a passage of one of my stories and be able to say, ‘Yes, that’s a Kate Stewart story’. Of course, Pam Ayres has performed her poems so often that it’s natural to hear her real voice speaking as you read, but the fact that I still heard it without knowing it was her poem speaks for the way she writes.
I read somewhere that quiet people tend to have quiet ‘voices’ when they write, and loud people have loud ‘voices’. I’d settle for any voice. Meanwhile, I'll read Ms Corti's book and see what I can do to improve my poetry.