- Read, read, read. Get as many poetry books as you can find in your house – or order a few, find stuff online, most poets for children will have content on their websites etc. Start finding the poets whose work speaks to you. You’ll start to notice why you like the particular poet – how do they use words? Do they use humour? How do the words feel in your mouth, sound in your ear? What do the poems make you think about? Do they spark any ideas of your own?
- See if you can find any videos of the poets that you like. Again, lots of them will be posting videos to their Youtube channels and websites. Watch them perform. How do they bring the words to life? Some poets will be much more animated than others. What style do you like?
- Find a poem that you love. Practise performing it. Is it a loud, noisy poem that calls for rhythmic percussion, banging pens on mugs and stuff like that? Or is it a quieter, gentle poem – if it is, how can your performance reflect that? Is there anybody in the house that can join in with you? Could you split the poem into different bits? Experiment. Have fun!
- Can you have a go at writing a poem a bit like the one you’ve been performing? You could maybe write about a similar subject or pick a word, phrase or line from the poem which you can use as a starter to get yourself going.
- Write any ideas down in an ‘ideas’ book. Ideas can come at any time and you need a place to collect them before they’re forgotten. All that reading and performing will definitely be generating words, phrases, whole lines that you want to write down. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar, just smash the ideas down.
- Watch my video ‘why is poetry different?’on my YouTube channel – there are some tips which I regularly use as part of my school workshops which demystify poetry and explain why there are no rules – and therefore no reason to worry about getting it wrong. It’s all about ‘having a go.’
- When you’ve spent a bit of time jotting ideas down, put them away. It’s really important that you come back to them the next day or the next week with fresh eyes. Then you can start getting it right for YOU. That means you sort through the words and phrases that resonate with you – not for anyone else. You’re trying to please yourself. If it’s supposed to be a funny poem, does it make you laugh? (we all have slightly different senses of humour; my wife, Joanna, for example rarely laughs ay my ‘funny’ poems – yet they make me laugh, and that’s what counts.) If it’s about YOUR life and thoughts and feelings, does it tell your truth, in YOUR voice? How do you want the poem to look on the page? Experiment!
- When you think the poem is right for you, have a go at performing it – what works best for the poem? What’s comfortable for you? Are you a loud, energetic poet, or a quiet one? Or can you do it all?
- Keep doing it. The more ideas you jot down, the more starting points you’ll be giving yourself to have a go at. Keep reading all sorts of poems by all sorts of different poets as well – they’ll continue to spark ideas. The more poems you write, the more your own individual voice will develop.
- Start collecting the poems you’ve written – you could write them out on paper and illustrate them and then staple them together? Have you got paints? Could you chalk one on the pavement outside your house? The possibilities are endless! Have fun!
Matt Goodfellow is from Manchester. He is a National Poetry Day Ambassador for the Forward Arts Foundation. His most recent collection is Bright Bursts of Colour (Bloomsbury 2020). He spent over ten years working as a primary school teacher but now his fills his week with writing, and visits to schools, libraries and festivals to deliver high-energy, fun-filled poetry performances and workshops. Follow him on Twitter @EarlyTrain.
During lockdown, Matt has been putting out free videos on his youtube channel to allow children, teachers and parents to access poetry. Find him on YouTube channel at Matt Goodfellow Poet.