Sir Andrew Motion, FRSL (born 26 October 1952) is an English poet, novelist, and biographer, who was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009. During the period of his laureateship, Motion founded the Poetry Archive, an online resource of poems and audio recordings of poets reading their own work. In 2012, he became President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, taking over from Bill Bryson.
The Guardian featured an article on writing poetry for your Valentine. This was Andrew Motion’s advice:
- Speak from your heart. Poets have in their toolbox every trick of rhetoric and linguistic structuring – from alliteration to zeugma. The toolbox is there to be ransacked, but the strength of your feelings might be diverted if you get too tied up with technical stuff.
- Simply to say “I love you” or “you’re beautiful” is not interesting. Remember William Carlos Williams’ advice about writing – there is no truth but in things. So be particular. Things have a fascination that abstractions don’t. A reader will be more likely to identify with your poem if there are references to personal situations or particular features – be it their body, attitude or behaviour.
- A sense of humour is not at odds with passionate intensity. Catching the ridiculousness of a situation doesn’t betray the subject or misrepresent the strength of your feelings. And don’t shy away from flaws. The whole business of being attracted to people is connected to their imperfections.
- Pay attention to rhymes and rhythms and the sound your words make. The sound of the thing is as important as the dictionary definition of the words.
- Revise, revise, revise. Our first thoughts are almost never our best.
Did You Know?..
Motion won the 2015 Ted Hughes Award for new work in poetry for the radio programme Coming Home.
The production featured poetry by Motion based on recordings he made of British soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.