February 26, 2016, by Stephen McKibbin
Some thoughts on my poem Eight pieces in imitation of Thomas A. Clark published in Granta this Month
With most of my poems the writing process has been all about the drafting – crossing things out and jigging stuff around and starting again until eventually there is something I can’t improve on. Other times, though, it’s more like something I imagine a Zen monk might do – years of study and contemplation followed by a brief focused flourish in which the right words somehow fall into place.
For the last two or three years I have rarely left the house without a Thomas A. Clark book in my rucksack; I think there is something very beautiful about the minimalistic way his poems respond to the flowers, trees or birds he encounters on his daily walks. Last summer I took part in a week-long writing course at the Arvon Foundation centre in Heptonstall on which Tom was the tutor. On the first morning, he suggested the students restrict their poems to four six-syllable lines, then sent us off to wander into the valley. I was surprised by how quickly I came up with something, though perhaps less surprised that I found myself trying to imitate Tom’s style.
Back in Nottingham I bundled up my new poems and submitted them to Granta magazine, and am very pleased that they have now been published in the Winter 2016 issue. The title is Eight pieces in imitation of Thomas A. Clark. The people who’ve seen them so far have told me how similar they are to my other poems. Maybe that just means that sounding like other poets’ work is part of what makes my poems my own.
Matt’s poem can be found in Granta (134), ‘No Man’s Land’.