How to Grow Your Own Poem

I mentioned Kate Clanchy’s book, How to Grow Your Own Poem, in the last post. It needs proper attention as it is a good collection of poems and thoughtful guidelines for ‘growing poems’. Kate Clanchy is a poet and teacher whose work with students in an Oxford comprehensive school is widely known. One of the many pleasures of this book, is the inclusion of poems written by her students. They are original, powerful, moving. And you can see what careful attention they pay to the language of the poem. They show just how a poem can prompt you to make a poem of your own. Kate Clanchy offers careful guidance. She draws attention to particular features of the poems she has chosen as provocations and she provides prompts and frameworks that help young writers to think about what to include and how to approach their writing. 

If you use the book, think carefully about the prompts. When they are written down, they seem -are – quite constraining. Some of us find such constraints liberating, and responding to them breaks the white page, but they can also lead to something more mechanical. We think the answer might lie in our own stance and our encouragement to young writers to break the rules, step out of the instruction and write what is theirs. I suspect that in the classroom, Kate Clanchy encourages just that. The poems written by students suggest that is the case. So I am encouraging you to be flexible.. 

Kate Clanchy provides really sound advice for young writers and their teachers, or, indeed, anyone who reads this book. She writes, briefly and with clarity. She writes.  amongst other things,  about revising, about punctuation, about sound and first and last lines and a wonderful page on what she calls ‘edge words’ -the words at the end of a line. She is open and encouraging. She believes in young writers.


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