POWER OF POETRY #112: MARK MAYES

What poetry means to me

I don’t remember reading poems as a child, although I probably came to knowvarious nursery rhymes, but don’t remember learning them specifically – they just appeared in the brain, in life. Or it seemed that way.

I didn’t engage with the idea of poetry at school, or school as a whole – there’s nothing poetic I remember from there. Poetry came after, piecemeal, and surruptitious. 

And poetry snuck in as part of the interest in song, its first cousin, and in writing songs, and playing the songs I loved. It also came via a late-teens desire to be an actor. And in the speech and drama classes I had with a nice lady called Vivienne, I was introduced to poetry, asked to learn it by heart, to feel it, and speak it as though it came in the moment from my own thoughts. Vernon Scannell was probably the first poet whose work I read with any sense of hunger, the discovery of something vital and mysterious.

Throughout a training as an actor, many more poets came into view, and I endeavoured to give a respectful and meaningful recitation of their work. To understand the lines and possible thoughts behind them. All that ended, that early dream, but poetry was left in the ashes, and in the years following I began to attempt to write poems myself. I joined groups, and read books about the craft or the art, had discussions, and found poets whom I loved, mostly by chance and via the public library; writers such as Brian Patten, Philip Larkin, and Stevie Smith, not to mention, Keats, Edward Thomas, and of course, Shakespeare. So many names, and often more the individual poem more than any name attached to it. So many voices.

And so it has gone on. Via blogs and other obscure corners of the interwebs, I love to read the poems of strangers, and offer up my own attempts, with no other aim in sight but to make something available. 

Yes, I sometimes send poems off to be considered by others, in a more formal way, but that is only one approach. There are many poetry worlds, and an infinite number of voices, as new rhymers or non-rhymers join the world or worlds every second. It is uncontrollable, and in truth resists all hierarchy.

I just want to go on doing this: reading, listening, and trying to write poems, and sometimes speaking them out loud – these poems, these fragments; little stepping stones on the way to we know not where, or wherefore.  


Mark enjoys writing mainly poems, stories, and songs. Some of the many writershe loves include: Philip Larkin, Stevie Smith, Jean Rhys, Kafka, Chekhov, Elizabeth Jennings, Jimmy Webb, and Shakespeare

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