Creating a poem

Creating a poem

Yesterday I submitted the final draft of a commissioned poem. This is a 3 minute film poem – I’ve done the writing and now it will be performed by a number of people at various locations and recorded by a professional film-maker.

It feels great to submit ahead of a deadline and I’m happy with what I have produced, but the reason for this post is to talk about what it takes to deliver a commissioned piece.

As I look back I find 10 pages of notes and plans, notes from two meetings, emails, index cards for some of my research, a good number of google searches and a dozen handwritten and word processed drafts.

A photo of a notebook and pens

Writing poems is fun and very rewarding. Occasionally a poem comes along without really having to work at it, for example one of my most recent was drafted, using my phone, on a bus and refined just a couple of times afterwards. Most of the time poems, even very short ones take a bit more development until they feel and sound right, and that development is a big part of the joy of writing poetry.

Once a commission is involved then things are a bit different, some of these are;

  • there will be a particular theme
  • the poem might be required for performance, for recording in audio of video media or it may be required to be printed in a particular format
  • there is usually a defined length in terms of lines, words or time
  • the commission will usually have a purpose which will define the mood or feel of the poem
  • there may be a requirement to collaborate with others
  • draft versions of the poem will generally need to be shared before the piece is finalised
  • there will be a deadline for the final submission
  • usually your work must not be made public until the time and place agreed with the comissioner

In short writing a poem for a commission is a project and needs to be planned and managed like any other project – but as a poet it is a really good discipline. Taking on occasional commissions is a great way to keep on developing your writing, it helps you to choose what messages a poem will end up giving and it helps you to keep your writing sharp and succinct.

Ideally it should also be financially rewarding. In the case of the recent poem I am pleased that the organisation commissioning it understand the work that goes into a three minute poem and pay a realistic rate.

Only in the creative arts are people expected to work “for exposure” and I strongly support the notion that artists should never be asked to work for free – exposure doesn’t pay the bills.


Mono photo of an old pocket watch without hands

Lately I’ve been writing about time and it seems the ideal topic for a creative writing workshop, so….

tomorrow I will be delivering a workshop for Number One Writing group at Rochdale Central Library.

All welcome to this session from 2pm to 4pm.

There is a small charge of £2 for each attendee to help cover the cost of running the group.