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Bristol Old Vic and the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon

Both these two theatres have decided to have a go at adapting 'We're Going On A Bear Hunt' for the stage. The Bristol version opens on December 15 and I hope to be seeing it a few days later and the Polka version opens in May 2007.

In case you don't know, the Polka Theatre is a brilliant theatre for children in Wimbledon, in South London and (puff, puff) I'm a patron. As a result they asked me to write something for their brochure about poetry. Here it is:

"People often ask me how to write a poem and what makes a good poem. The first way I answer is usually by not answering at all. Like this:

The best thing for anyone who wants to write poetry to do is to read a lot of it. What you need to do is get the hang of the way poetry works, the way it sounds, the way poets put thoughts, ideas and events together. Treat yourself, get yourself one anthology full of poems by different authors, and one collection of poems by a poet you like. Read these two books over and over again.

The second thing to do is get yourself a notebook. In this notebook, write down any words, phrases, sentences, snatches of language, notices, jokes, odd thoughts and saying that strike you as interesting. Just keep collecting. Sometimes you may want to copy out part or all of a poem. Sometimes it might be something that your grandmother said, or that you overheard on the bus. Keep all of it. Sometimes you might think it's interesting how this or that word rhymes or nearly rhymes with another. Jot it down. Sometimes you might have a really odd thought, or you discover that if you re-arrange a well-known phrase something odd comes out. Jot it down. Other times you might discover that if you put two words or two phrases together that usually don't go together, something interesting  happens - like 'scary' and 'tomato' or 'sleepy' and 'pencil'. Jot them down.

Other things to remember are:

That it's a great idea to write when you feel like writing. Don't delay it. Don't put it off.

That it's a good idea to show what you've written to people whose views you respect. Some people will be able to help you, others won't. You'll find out who these people are by yourself.

Poetry is a very wide-ranging field full of many, many different ways of writing, full of very many different things that people have chosen to write about. Don't ever get yourself into the trap of thinking that poetry can only be one way of writing, or about one kind of subject. That simply isn't true. Let yourself be open to all kinds. Let  yourself be surprised. Always be ready to try out different ways of writing, different subjects.

When you read poetry, see if you can spot how the poet has got you interested. Is that something you can do?

Here's the subject for a poem:

'What you see, isn't me.' "





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