Photographs by Douglas Duke
It’s really no surprise if I tell you that I love words. Words are my tools for painting the pictures that I always longed to paint and somehow never could. The first examination I ever failed was art. My love of artworks endures, however, and I have produced a collection of poems inspired by them, ekphrastic poems as they are now called. Word portraits of family, friends and unsuspecting passers-by also flow from my pen; my first poetry pamphlet, Conversations, published in 2021 by Dempsey & Windle, is full of them. But landscapes tempt me too. The natural world calls to me and I struggle to capture it in words, preferably in situ: ‘Life, stand still here’ to quote Virginia Woolf, one of my favourite authors.
In our home we have a superfluity of things. We are amazed how they accumulate. But in my heart I am a minimalist. The problem is that sometimes I love words too much. My prose writing tends towards the verbose. As Woolf once said, ‘The truth is only to be had by laying together many varieties of error.’ Nothing is black and white in my world. I am a colourist. There is always another shade but I am not keen on grey.'
Poetry is my way of exploring minimalism. Aberystwyth University’s Lifelong Learning programme introduced me to both imagist poetry and haiku. The Imagist movement lasted only a few years but reading poems by T.E. Hulme, William Carlos Williams, Richard Aldington and others had a lasting effect on my own writing. Released from formal rhyming patterns and rhythms and learning to create sharp, bright images with a minimum of words, I was in my element. An exploration into the Japanese form of haiku took me further, allowing me to combine my love of nature and the seasons with the necessity to pare down language to an absolute minimum. Three lines, comprised of only seventeen syllables, focusses the mind! A friend introduced me to a haiku challenge she was following—one haiku a day for a month. Joining in, I was hooked. A year — and a lockdown or two — later I was still writing and had completed an entire Haiku Journal of 366 haiku (2020 was a leap year). That discipline of making every word count has stayed with me.
Julia Duke is the author of Conversations (2021, Dempsey & Windle)
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This is a blog written by Dempsey & Windle poets about their inspiration for writing poetry