Behind the Poem

Photo: Jarek Pelczynski.
Photo: Jarek Pelczynski.

Behind the Poem is an online feature in which contributors to The Poetry Review offer insights into the inspiration behind their poems.

While some poets are wary of directing the reader to any one interpretation of their work, all of the contributors here offer exciting and inspiring insights into how their poems have been written.

As the poets explain, poems may begin with a painting or with Greek myth, with board games, Borges, Hooke or natural history. In Ian Duhig’s case, a tantalising notebook entry led into lexicography and beyond. The poems may have come quickly to the page or may be the work of several years. They may connect with the poets’ wider projects or may be a snapshot of adventures in new terrain

In the latest Behind the Poem features, Harmony Holiday questions what’s in a name in her epxloration of the impact on her life of two James Browns, while Inua Ellams explores love, loss and classical music.

Other recent contributors include Will Harris, Alison Winch, Vandana Khana, Andre Bagoo, Penelope Shuttle, Rebecca Perry and Laura Scott.  Perry writes of her latest poems as ‘mental dominos’, Mort of the emerging poem’s “faint but purposeful aura, foraging in the mind”, while Rumens describes how her ‘Glosa on “Woman of Spring” by Joan Margarit’ became an exciting retrospective launchpad for her new poem. Barraclough explains how he modelled his paean to the sun on Christopher Smart’s ‘For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry’ . Clarkson shows how her poem, ‘Love Cow’, can be traced back to dreams, a trip to a Belgian abattoir as a teenager and her father’s cottage in “the wild west of Ireland”. Scott explores how her reading of War and Peace produced “a dead man come back to life” and a moon turning trees silver in her poem, ‘If I could write like Tolstoy’.

As ever, Behind the Poem offers fascinating insights into some of the poems in The Poetry Review and the variety of ways in they develop, allowing readers a glimpse of the writer’s working practice and wider imagination.

You might also like to visit our new online feature In Front of the Poem, in which readers of The Poetry Review respond to a poem or poems in an issue.