Sunday, 21 November 2010


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.


Anonymous said...

Hey, well done you! I hadn't heard about this until now. Congratulations.

Sandra Patterson said...

Well done on winning the contest, Kate - don't be so modest, I'm sure it was great entry.

Clare said...

Kate, you're being far too modest -that poem of yours really encapsulated what "home" is all about and it wasn't just the judges who commented on it being their favourite (out of some very good poetry).
What makes you think your own writing lacks voice? Pam Ayres was so prolific that her voice became unmistakable but maybe your own voice does come through to others in your writing and it is only you who doesn't hear it?
Enjoy your prize!

Kate said...

Thanks ladies! Clare, you're right, there was some good poems there. I didn't mean to belittle them.

I wonder if you CAN hear your own voice in your writing? Maybe that's the problem.

Medeia Sharif said...


I sometimes can hear my own voice in my writing. I'm thinking others probably detect it better than me since I'm too used to my writing.

Shirley said...

That poem by Pam Ayres is quite well known here. It hangs in my denist waiting rooom too!

Well done on the poetry win and keep writing!

Angela Ackerman said...

Isn't that amazing that you knew it was her before seeing the author's name. That's skill, leaving such a remarkable and recognizable imprint on words.

Angela @ the Bookshelf Muse