Behind the Poem: mines, fires underground and mythic homes

The Poetry Society has released new essays by Paula Bohince and Tarn MacArthur, the latest in the online Behind the Poem series in which poets reflect on the inspiration and development of one or more of their poems in The Poetry Review.

Paula Bohince explains how her poem, ‘The Skunk’, published in the spring 2021 issue of the Review, was sparked by a story in her local newspaper in Pennsylvania, about a fire that had been burning for fifty years in the closed coal mines beneath people’s homes.  Its final extinction, she says, “felt a little outrageous, and dipping into that emotion let me similarly roam in the writing process”.

Tarn MacArthur’s essay on his poem, ‘The Bone Trowel’, also published in the spring Review, similarly wanders into its making, as he describes his time spent uncovering his family’s associations with St Kilda. His ancestral home inspires both myth and elegy.

The Behind the Poem series, which began in 2013, offers a fascinating range of parallel texts to poems in The Poetry Review. Past contributors include Gail McConnell on her poem ‘Untitled / Villanelle’, Isabelle Baafi on ‘hotboxing’ and Anthony Anaxagorou on ‘After the Formalities’. Browse the full archive in the Behind the Poem pages of The Poetry Society website.

13 April 2021