A new National Poetry Competition writing resource from Ella Frears

Ella Frears. photo: Etienne Gilfillan

The next in our series of writing guides is here, this time by National Poetry Competition 2018 commended poet Ella Frears. Ella’s resource explore how poems can be made timeless, looking at poems exploring the unknowable and inexpressable – and the way the timelessness of those poems can apply to the here and now.

You can download the writing guide in its entirety for free here. 

Here’s an exerpt from Frears’s guide, responding to two previous National Poetry Competition poems: John Wedgwood Clarke’s poem ‘Stubble’, and ‘Through the Square Window’ by Sinéad Morrissey.


1. Think of someone you love (alive or not). Set a timer for five minutes. List as many small details as you can as though you are drawing them, e.g. small scar on left hand the shape of a forward slash,  soft dark arm hair, slightly curly… etc.  
 
2. Go for a walk. If you can’t, think of a path or street you know well and take yourself down it in your mind. Take notes.    
• what can you see?    
• hear?    
• smell?    
• what are you thinking?     
• what is the sky doing?     
• what is the light like?     
• are you warm? Cold?  
 
3. Return to your notes about the person you love. Choose a few favourite details.  
 
4. Write a poem about the person you love, using only images, sensations and noises from your walk. Refrain from telling us directly how you feel about them, what your relationship is. Saturate the landscape with these feelings.  
 
5. If the poem feels like it needs something else, try adding your chosen details about that person.  

 
This guide joins resources by poets Pascale Petit and Eric Berlin, available via the National Poetry Competition page on our website, and are available to help you in your own creative practice whether or not you’re planning on entering the finished poem into the competition. If you would like to enter, remember that you can do so online, and the closing date is 31 October.