“Hi, my name’s Henry, I’m here today writing poems for people. Would you like to challenge me to write a poem on any topic you’d like?”
This is usually the spiel I deliver, all smiles and safe distance, trying desperately to prove that my pitch is not due to an obsessive fixation with that person, or fuelled by a intense desire to write poems by any means necessary. I am, in fact, supported by Suffolk Libraries and Creative Arts East, and by extension Arts Council England, to write poems for anyone who wants one.
I visited Haverhill & Brandon Library, followed by the Heart of Norfolk in, well, Norfolk. While there I performed to classes of Year 5 and 6s and met all manner of very nice, some very intense, people and savagely hunted for veggie food in their high streets.
I returned two weeks later armed with 39 poems written for 39 people, and hopefully everyone who gets their poem will appreciate it fits their request. I also came back with Travels By Telephone, aka Jamie Wilson, and we performed several sets of solo material, and then our fusion show Practise Patience. You can check out the show here.
So I now have to actually write a couple more pieces, and catch up on other work. But I wanted to just add some thoughts here. A lot of the time, people are amazed by my ‘ability’ to write poems for people based on their requests. There’s no great trick, and the ‘talent’ lies within the practise and preparation. I try to break down an pretence of being A Poet, break down any dividing line between me as an artist, and them as a audience. The poem is based on their suggestions, their ideas and their input.
I hope this proves how writing poetry is so easy, a simple question, a few scribbled thoughts and then we’re away writing poems and stories. Libraries and pubs are spaces where this can happen, a public space without the hang-ups that theatres instil in people.
So if you’re reading this and you gave me a suggestion, thank you so much! I hope the poem you got was appropriate and inspired you to write something too! But if you felt the poem could have been better or not quite about what you had in mind, then by all mean…go forth and write!