Arts and Crafts

“Dear Editor, I am writing to you from the pier at Brighton with the rough wind tugging at the sheets of this letter. Just a moment ago, I hurled a small brass key into the waves. It seals forever the desk drawer in my study holding all my works. Thus, I regret to inform you I shall not be submitting any poems.

I have singularly failed in the dimension of artistic merit. For all those long years that I studied the craft of poetry, no inspiration has been forthcoming. I hereby end my artistic life, it is stillborn, my legacy is unfulfilled. Yours, the Soon-To-Be-Forgotten Poet”.

Please, please do not end up like this. I believe that writing poetry is both an art and a craft, a manifestation of heart and mind working together. It is a sharing of the human condition with others.

Unless you are translating someone else’s work, a poet will face a blank page at the inception of any new work. (Not a blank screen? It is my preference to start with pen and paper because that connects me most directly with the thoughts and words. There are no distractions of spell checkers, autoformatting, layout, or low batteries. Do not artists in other media prefer to start with a sketchbook, musicians with a real keyboard, a sculptor with clay?) At this point, you are seeking original ideas to fill that blank page and craft should follow the art. Each work starts with inspiration but is then shaped by craft. This blog cannot help with inspiration, or with art, but tries to inform on matters of craft.

Your artistic effort must be sustained over many works due to the learning process that you must undergo. A heuristic struggle with the stuff of your craft. All successful artists make this journey, sometimes not gaining recognition but at least satisfaction. To undertake this journey requires persistence, curiosity and diligence. And most of all, self-belief.

A good work should stand up to repeated reading and critical analysis. Sometimes, in the face of some ill-judged critical remark from another, it hurts but one must learn from an observation, assess its pertinence and not be deterred from continuing. Consider it, revise and continue.

Experiment too, with form; as an artist, sculptor or photographer might with composition, materials and genre. Try sonnets, ballads, odes, villanelles and sestinas. I have tried all of these, learning as I go. Recently even having had published [1] an English-language englyn, which is a very old Welsh form of poetry. Many of these forms are ancient, tried and tested for hundreds of years, so are part of the craft that will support your artistic outpouring.

The last step, is to step out of your study or whatever space you have to write in. Your work must be socialised so that it is judged by peers, editors, adjudicators and the public.

Stay away from the end of the pier. Please do not leave your work to languish in a drawer to be forgotten forever.

20201023 Arts and Crafts with title

Copyright Clifford Liles, October 2020.

One thought on “Arts and Crafts

  1. Thank you for giving the gift I need at the moment I need it. Your encouragement gives me strength to rekindle my passion for poetry and prose. I had forgotten how to do so many things in recent years, but poetry has never abandoned me.


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