Hello everyone! This week I’m thrilled to bring you a talented British poet, author, and flash fiction Aficionado. I asked him to pick three or four questions from my huge list HERE. We all aspire to be successful poets and authors, and the best way to learn some tricks of the trade is to ask questions.
First, please meet my guest, Geoff Le Pard.
Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.
Hi, Colleen. It’s great to get together again for a chat.
I agree. It’s the perfect opportunity to talk about your new poetry book. So, tell me… Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?
My writing career as a poet began in July 2007. I suppose I wrote poetry at school and I’ve made up limericks at times but nothing serious. I started penning poems, following a poetry appreciation course where I studied the greats of English poetry from Chaucer G. to Duffy C-A.
It was inspiring but… one thing you see in poetry, pre the second half of the twentieth century is a focus on form – meter, scan, rhyme. I felt my poetry needed to echo these unwritten rules. I also fell in love with the sonnet which is an extreme example of the rigid form.
When I aspired to pen some serious poems, I determined to comply with these rules. What has improved has been my willingness to move on from these strictures. Let me give you two examples.
In my current book, this sonnet followed Shakespeare’s sonnet (Sonnet 130, William Shakespeare)
“Only Skin Deep”
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun Though vodka shots tend to turn them yellow. She is quite unique, more stun than stunner, Which some say makes me a lucky fellow. My tongue, whose form can change to suit all tastes, From gentle probe to pert, priapic beast, Becomes a dry and flaccid thing, all chaste, When suffocated by her doggy breath’s release. Facial engineers, who can craft Kate Moss From Quasimodo, turn and run a mile: I’d give my soul to Satan, bear any loss If they’d mould Venus from her Cubist smile. But let’s face it; on me she’s placed a hex: It’s not her looks that bind us, just the sex. ©2020 "The Sincerest Form of Poetry," by Geoff Le Pard
I’ve worked on it over the years and I like it but… It’s very much old school. The rhymes break with the lines and phrases and the meter is consistent throughout. It was a challenge to make it work, and satisfying when I achieved something that fit with the Master’s original.
Gradually I learnt that there is as much joy in subverting the rules as complying, as this one form a couple of years ago shows (it was inspired by my son’s love of moths and a moth trap we inherited from my father that drew him outside every night to see what had come in).
“A Life Spared“
Cold midnight is like a mask deadening time, Taking from the senses, dulling compassion. A slight shadow moves, this night's assassin Poised to curtail another life. No crime: This act is almost instinctive. Fear grips The target, knowing its very existence Is lightly held. No appeal; resistance Will be futile. The chance to flee slips As mind muddies and muscles clench. Drawn taut, Death's sharpened claws reach out. But they stop short; This soft murder is edge-balanced so fine. Hope competes with despair. So thin a line. The killer's head turns; the prey slips his tweezers. 'Come on inside son. Have some Maltesers.' ©2020 "The Sincerest Form of Poetry," by Geoff Le Pard
Here we have a few lines where the rhyme and phrase combine but others where the rhyme is halfway through the phrase. The scan, too, is not easy and takes some reading to make it flow. Today, this is expected.
I’ve now written many poems where there is no scan or rhyme and meter is irrelevant. I hate the expression blank verse because all poetry must have a flow or it’s merely pretentious prose, but that is what it is called.
It took me time to accept that I could write poetry like this – I like structure and the challenges they impose. Breaking that mould has been a constant battle with my instincts.
I totally understand how you feel. That’s why I write syllabic poetry. I hate to break the rules! So, in your opinion, what makes a good poem?
Eventually, I wrote the poem that is in the final poem in the book. For me, it sums up poetry, especially the sonnet, as it is perceived today. Look closely and you’ll see the first half-rhymes in the middle of each line, each of which comprises a complete phrase; the second half doesn’t break at the end of any line, but each line rhymes with its mirror line in the first half. It’s a complete travesty of all sonnet rules, but that’s what I’ve learnt…
“What Makes A Good Poem?“
How do you know when you’ve penned a good poem? Is better for the use of a metaphor? What about imagery without simile? Would it be neater with one simple meter? Is it a crime to decry a good rhyme? What part of the plan requires lines to scan? And could it be worse to write in plain verse? But when I write, I think it’s perverse To let the flow slow. You see, I can Scribble doggerel or craft sublime Stanzas if left alone. But it’s sweeter For me if I let my mind wander free And ignore all conventions. Before I know it, this poet has his poem. ©2020 The Sincerest Form of Poetry, by Geoff Le Pard
… as the last line has it ‘this poet has his poem’.
Excellent! Geoff, what do you think are some common traps for aspiring writers?
If I focus on poetry then I would suggest there are a few things to think about when writing poetry.
- 1. Don’t overthink the first draft; poetry is often about emotion, communicating feelings so get those down on paper and worry about how they sound in the edit;
- 2. Even if you plan on following a form – like me with sonnets – it doesn’t matter if you can’t achieve the meter – classically iambic pentameter – or the rhyme at the outset. As with point number one, get the words down and then work on achieving the structure.
- 3. You need to work on poetry far more than on prose. Every word must count so, even if you feel satisfied, leave the poem and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes.
- 4. Often novice writers, of both prose and poetry want to write but find themselves held back by a perceived lack of confidence in their ideas. If that’s you, then you really just have to write. And if you aren’t sure what to write, take a pad and a pen, or your phone – whatever you like writing on – and go for a walk. Find somewhere to sit and take a few minutes to absorb your surroundings. Then, write down what you see, everything. The tree to your right and its colour, the way it moves or its stillness, the man walking his dog, what’s he looks like, how does he walk. Having written say 20 to 30 lines, take it home and read it through. What is good? What do you like? Take that and then write a ten-line poem from that nugget. Can you bring in some imagery? Can you move away from what you actually saw to what you might have seen? You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll have something you like, maybe even two or three ideas that you can work on. And even if you don’t like any of it, try somewhere else and try again. You’ll soon find something you enjoy.
That’s an excellent plan for writing poetry. What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?
Finding time and avoiding distractions. As I don’t earn a living from writing, other priorities interfere with my well laid plans and good intentions. I’m fortunate that I can write pretty much anywhere and don’t need silence or a lack of company to focus.
But I do have a conscience, and that niggles and nags away at me, telling me to walk the dog, write the piece I’ve promised, dig that flowerbed, paint that bedroom… And then there are my other pleasures: watching sport, taking exercise, baking. It can be easy to decide to make bread, create a quiche, do a HIIT session, settle in front of a game of cricket when I’ve told myself that time is for writing. I console myself with the thought that, when I am writing I’m neglecting all those other competing priorities and feeling rather good about it.
The other challenge I face on occasion is finishing a book. I have yet to start any book with even the vaguest idea of how it might end. I have an idea which may or may not have legs, but I will start writing and see where it goes. If I like the flow I carry on, waiting for the ending to occur to me. It will but there have been times when I’ve wondered how I’ll get there…
The hardest thing about poetry has been learning not to force it. With fiction, I can always find an idea and beginning writing, but poetry will come when it comes, and no amount of wishing it will let it start. I’ve tried to trick myself, but I generally find what I then create is like yesterday’s cornflakes.
I agree. You can’t force the oracle to open the creative well when it comes to writing poetry. Now, what would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?
This is where poetry and prose depart. With prose I have so many ideas for stories I’ve stopped writing them down. They just pop into my head when I need them. It means my version of writer’s block is not a lack of ideas or commitment to writing, but finding the elusive ending.
And, refining that slightly further, if offered a prompt it won’t take me long to find an angle that I hope no one else has seen. I am fairly sure that my love of the comedic and surreal writers – Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams to name two – who set their fantasy worlds in familiar territory with subverted elements has helped me think as I imagine they did.
After all, writing is a joy I’ve found late in life and I’m making up for lost time. There’s nothing difficult doing something that I love so much. I suspect I’m lucky that way.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your poetry, more about your newest release, and your poetry writing techniques, Geoff. It’s always fun to hear from other poets.
I’ve read and reviewed, “The Sincerest Form of Poetry.” You can find that review HERE.
More books by Geoff Le Pard:
My Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.
Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976, the hero Harry Spittle is home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated.
In this, the second book in the Harry Spittle Sagas, it’s 1981 and Harry is training to be a solicitor. His private life is a bit of a mess and he’s far from convinced the law is for him. Then an old acquaintance from his hotel days appears demanding Harry write his will. When he dies somewhat mysteriously a few days later and leaves Harry in charge of sorting out his affairs, Harry soon realises this will be no ordinary piece of work. After all, his now deceased client inherited a criminal empire and several people are very interested in what is to become of it.
The third instalment of the Harry Spittle Sagas moves on the 1987. Harry is now a senior lawyer with a well-regarded City of London firm, aspiring to a partnership. However, one evening Harry finds the head of the Private Client department dead over his desk, in a very compromising situation. The senior partner offers to sort things out, to avoid Harry embarrassment but soon matters take a sinister turn and Harry is fighting for his career, his freedom and eventually his life as he wrestles with dilemma on dilemma. Will Harry save the day? Will he save himself?
Life in a Grain of Sand is a 30 story anthology covering many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015.
Salisbury Square is a dark thriller set in present day London where a homeless woman and a Polish man, escaping the police at home, form an unlikely alliance to save themselves.
This is available here
Buster & Moo is about about two couples and the dog whose ownership passes from one to the other. When the couples meet, via the dog, the previously hidden cracks in their relationships surface and events begin to spiral out of control. If the relationships are to survive there is room for only one hero but who will that be?
Life in a Flash is a set of super short fiction, flash and micro fiction that should keep you engaged and amused for ages.
Apprenticed To My Mother describes the period after my father died when I thought I was to play the role of dutiful son, while Mum wanted a new, improved version of her husband – a sort of Desmond 2.0. We both had a lot to learn in those five years, with a lot of laughs and a few tears as we went.
Life in a Conversation is an anthology of short and super short fiction that explores connections through humour, speech and everything besides. If you enjoy the funny, the weird and the heart-rending then you’ll be sure to find something here.
When Martin suggests to Pete and Chris that they spend a week walking, the Cotswolds Way, ostensibly it’s to help Chris overcome the loss of his wife, Diane. Each of them, though, has their own agenda and, as the week progresses, cracks in their friendship widen with unseen and horrifying consequences.
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Thanks for stopping by to meet Geoff Le Pard. I’ll see you again, real soon!