Tag Archives: Ted Hughes

Grace, fluency, and facility… Poet Chris Kinsey on writing and re-writing.

Writers are notoriously curious about how everybody else does it. Apart from the endless fascination with other peoples’ process, we also know there are wonderful lessons to be learned, tips to gather, knowledge to be shared. A few weeks ago the poet Chris Kinsey shared a document with me which she had written for her students about writing and re-writing. I’m delighted she gave me permission to reproduce that here.


Chris Kinsey: A personal view of writing and re-writing.


I write mainly out of excitement with experiences and from a desire to re-enact and re-live them.

I want to record the physicality and sensations of certain experiences. (Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Gerard Manley Hopkins were the first to make me want to pay attention and write.)

I write in order to find out what it is I want to write. Many writers prefer to have a plan but I’ve never liked to fit into the Procrustian bed of a plan. I need to make discoveries to maintain my motivation. Good ideas mostly fail because they’re good and there’s nothing to work out. It can feel like drudgery to record them.

First drafts are like finding a load of fireworks – full of excitement at experimenting with voices and viewpoints and coining words and images with the most exact visual or aural effects. This stage can be intoxicating. I chase a stream of consciousness, memory and sensation as fast as I can and as close as I can to any event which excites me to write.

Re-writing is best done a day or two after the ‘first thoughts, best thoughts’ rush.

Sometimes it’s as painful and humiliating as a hangover – everything grates or clunks or seems hackneyed, clichéd, laborious, repetitive, monotonous, vague, waffling, tongue-twisterly, O.T.T……. Sometimes it only feels this way. Our feelings are not always the best guide to the quality of our work; especially if they’ve just been hurt by discovering that a first draft doesn’t represent total satisfaction or perfection. Usually there are plenty of nuggets to harvest and frequently this leads to the true or vivid aspects of the subject declaring themselves and a theme or shape emerges. Voice or tone stabilises and distillation begins.

Crop peripheral ideas and images, focus the main ones.

Strive for the most exact, apt images and nouns. Tone up verbs. Tweak and play with word orders (save every change – you may want to revert to an earlier form). Try your piece out on the ear. Cut clichés, repetitions, catch phrases, etc. Etc. Rest. Let it lie.

Return later  – this is the hard part – make sure you haven’t cut some crucial part. And this is the really hard part – make sure you haven’t stifled the life of your piece by over determining it.

Hope for grace, fluency, and facility. Try your work out on someone whose feedback you trust and respect. Someone who will tell you where the work made them stumble is valuable.

Good, spontaneous-sounding, ‘natural’, pleasure-to-read work, often takes between 15 and 30 drafts.



With thanks to Chris.

Copyright of the above remains with Chris Kinsey 16/2/14.


2013 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry launches today.

As a former winner of The Ted Hughes Award, I was sent this press release today and asked to share…

The Poetry Society launches the 2013 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry.

“I’m delighted to be announcing the fifth Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. In a short space of time the award has established itself as one of the major national prizes for poetry, recognised for the breadth of its connection with other forms of artistic expression. It’s an award that helps to promote both new and established poets, and it provides a platform for emerging artists, like last year’s winner, the wonderful Kate Tempest, allowing a whole new audience to appreciate their work.” – Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate and founder of the Ted Hughes Award.

Established in 2009, the Ted Hughes Award highlights the ways in which poets engage with other art forms. In order to reflect the collaborative nature of the award, the judging panel comprises artists from a range of backgrounds: this year, poets Sean Borodale and Denise Riley team up with artist Eileen Cooper RA.
The award seeks to reward poetry in books and beyond – on the stage, on the radio, on film and TV, in art galleries and around us in the built environment.

Previous winners of the £5,000 prize include Kate Tempest in 2012 for Brand New Ancients, a spoken word story told over a live orchestral score, Lavinia Greenlaw in 2011 for Audio Obscura, a sound work; the playwright Kaite O’Reilly for her 2010 verse translation of The Persians; and, in 2009, Alice Oswald for her illustrated collection Weeds and Wildflowers.

Kate Tempest said of winning the 2012 award: “I was overwhelmed. It was amazing to be in that room with those judges and have them say to me ‘we loved your work’. When you’re a performer or on stage people are looking at you, judging you but they’re not necessarily looking at the work […] what felt really special about the Ted Hughes Award is that it was about the work.”

In order to consider the full sweep of new poetry, the Ted Hughes Award invites members of the Poetry Society, and / or Poetry Book Society, to recommend a living UK poet, working in any form, who they feel has made an outstanding contribution to poetry in 2013. Recommendations are shortlisted by the judges in February 2014 and the winner is announced in March.

Recommendation forms are available to members of Poetry Society and Poetry Book Society and can be found by clicking here. Completed forms should be sent to Helen Taylor at tedhughesaward@poetrysociety.org.uk. 

A range of work is showcased on a dedicated ‘New Work’ page of the Poetry Society website, which aims to demonstrate the scope of work recognised by the award, and suggestions for additional projects are welcome.

Best wishes,

Robyn Donaldson

Marketing Assistant
The Poetry Society,
22 Betterton Street,

Phone: 020 7420 9886
Email: marketing@poetrysociety.org.uk

Don’t forget to enter the National Poetry Competition 2013!
Deadline for entries 31st October 2013

In the republic of poetry – The Ted Hughes Award

In the republic of poetry

Alan Ward speaks to Kaite O’Reilly, winner of the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry

This interview first appeared in the summer 2011 issue of Poetry News, which is mailed quarterly to members of the Poetry Society  (www.poetrysociety.org.uk).

Carol Ann Duffy presented playwright Kaite O’Reilly with the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry and a £5,000 cheque at the Savile Club, London, on 24 March 2011. Judges Gillian Clarke, Stephen Raw and Jeanette Winterson selected O’Reilly’s masterly retelling of Aeschylus’s 2,500-year-old play The Persians from a shortlist compiled from recommendations made by Poetry Society and PBS members. “Here’s the truth of language colliding with the clichés of politics and the advertisement of war,” the judges said. “This verse play is entertainment, challenge and a lie detector.”

Photo by Hayley Madden

Winning such a prestigious poetry award has, O’Reilly says, made her reflect on her practice and how she labels herself. “From the beginning of my career, critics have always called my plays ‘poetic’, or ‘lyrical’. Although I have never viewed myself as a ‘poet’, my poet friends do…”

So had she taken particular inspiration from the reworkings of Classical texts by poets such as Heaney, Hughes and Harrison when writing The Persians? “No, I was following a different trajectory,” O’Reilly says, though she had been keen to observe Aeschylus’s “very precise” poetic schema. “When Aeschylus used the heroic hexameter, I tried to echo this, sparingly, so as not to jar the ear of a modern audience. In the sections where he used prose, I did too.”

Poetry is an important part of her personal hinterland: “I’m Irish and, without trying to romanticise my culture, I do believe there is a form of poetics in the way Irish people handle the English language – or there was, certainly, in the living mouths of my parents and the way I was reared. There’s a love of language, an intoxication with what it can do – its lyricisms, its brutality – and this came to me through the language around me as I grew up.” John Donne remains a particular favourite. “He’s the poet I loved first and return to most. He and the Metaphysical poets wrote – to my ear, at least – the human voice in movement, full of humour and poignancy.”

O’Reilly’s adventurousness as a writer continues. She has been developing a series of work for disabled and Deaf performers for several years. In Water I’m Weightless: The ‘d’ Monologues will be produced by National Theatre Wales in 2012, as an Unlimited Commission and part of the Cultural Olympiad. The monologues vary in style and form, and include Sign Poetry. “I have been involved in disability arts and culture for over twenty years, and with Sign Performance for almost as long,” O’Reilly says.

So will the Ted Hughes Award finally allay her anxieties about claims to poetry? “I have always been rather terrified of ‘poetry’ – whatever that may mean,” she admits. “As a child, I gobbled it up and learned, as is so usual in Irish culture, huge swathes of it by heart. Then, somewhere in my twenties I became fearful – I wasn’t clever enough to understand poetry, it was something ‘beyond’ me – although I continued to read widely, especially in translation from German, Japanese, Welsh and Thai. My friend the nature poet Chris Kinsey started my repatriation into the republic of poetry, chasing away my fears, sharing her work and that of others. Now to be formally addressed as a fellow citizen, and by such luminaries – who I am to disagree?”

Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry

The award was founded by Carol Ann Duffy when she became Poet Laureate in 2009. The £5,000 prize money is funded from the stipend that the laureate traditionally receives from HM The Queen. The Ted Hughes Award 2011 will begin accepting recommendations from Poetry Society and Poetry Book Society members from September. Visit http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/competitions/tedhughes/ to find out more, to see examples of the type of work that may be eligible, and to make the Society aware of any exciting work you feel your fellow members might like to know about.

Further information about the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry can be found here: http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/competitions/tedhughes/