• Alan Ward

Publishing a few poems on my website

Poetry (reading and writing it) is important to me. At the moment I'm in the habit of pulling a random poetry collection from my bookshelf in the morning, flicking to any poem and reading it to set me up for the day. Other people have an espresso, but the caffeine's not for me. It (reading a poem selected at random, not an espresso) can lead to some lovely discoveries. Even though I've often read the whole pamphlet or collection before, it's amazing what you can find on a second or third reading. And those words or thoughts or images are then floating around inside my head for the rest of the day in a way that's very pleasant.

Earlier in the week I mentioned that one of my poems was shortlisted in the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition. Following this, I wanted to make a space on my website where I can share some of my poetry. Follow the link and that's where you'll find them. However, please read on for a more detailed (and introspective) examination of my complex feelings about publishing these...

I wouldn't dream of sharing 90% of my writing output with anyone else. And that's a conservative estimate. I'm well aware that what seems significant or meaningful to me won't necessarily be significant to other people. This is especially true of poetry, and I've wrangled about whether I really want to publish any of it on my website at all for a few reasons.

Firstly, the poetry I'm able to publish is old. Logistically, I'm comfortable publishing these previously published poems because any exclusivity the original publishers held over them has long since worn off (and in some cases the original publisher was me, on another blog). However, that means that in some cases what I'm sharing with you today has its roots eight or nine years ago.

Secondly, because it's older work it doesn't represent what I'm currently writing or necessarily what I think of as 'good' poetry. Frankly, some of it is a bit embarrassing, and I've tried to tidy it up where I can. The newer stuff, the few pieces I'm really happy with, are ones I'm hoping will find a home somewhere at some point (now that I've got time to submit them) – and anyone who's ever entered a writing competition or submitted to a magazine will know that you can only submit unpublished work.

Thirdly, I worked for a poetry organisation with an international reach for a long time. When I worked there (in a marketing capacity) I came across all types of poets: I'm majorly aware of the exciting work that's going on out there, and I don't want anyone to think that by publishing my own work online I'm saying I in any way compare to that impressive community of published poets. In my days in that job I had many phone conversations with aspiring poets who wanted advice on how to get published, and they would often say "all my friends love my work" – which nearly always meant it was dull, and their very nice friends were just being... well, very nice. I don't want to become one of those people: so, I'll stress again, I'm not publishing this work here because I think it's all fantastic or because I'm fishing for compliments. Poets prove themselves through publishing in quality magazines and success in established competitions with reputable judges.

Finally, I should say that I do write other things as well as poems and short stories, but poems and short stories lend themselves better to being shared online like this. I also write / am working on longer fiction, plays and television scripts – pretty much using the written word in any way I can, using the medium that suits the story best. Just because those things don't lend themselves to being shared, I don't want to paint a picture of myself as avoiding them.

Thanks for reading. If after all that you're still interested in having a poke around in the poems, here's the link again... consider your expectations managed!

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