Pat Hughes

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Open University

My education stopped midway through a part time degree course two decades ago.
I have been considering applying for a free course called About Poetry via the Open University.
Has anybody else invested time in something like this?
Did it help improve your poetry skills?
I feel a tad inadequate in comparison to other peoples work and thought maybe this would help?
Tue, 24 Apr 2018 05:24 pm
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Hello Pat,
While I have not used the OU myself I do know several people who have and who only have good things to say.
I myself am considering my Masters this year or next (depending on the funding which is the scary part) and would opt for the OU. Plus, its a free course, so if you feel pigeon holed or constricted in any way you can just stop. Even if you pick up one trick or technique from it then its been worth the price!
As for a poetry course in general, I think people have mixed views on them (and creative writing courses on the whole) as they tend to subscribe to one way of writing and stick to it.
If you are looking for poetry type courses that are taught by actual modern poets in beautiful places, try Arvon. They arent cheap but the courses are brilliant and tend to focus on you as an individual, something you obviously wont get with an OU course, which is produced for the masses.
I honestly think the best way to improve as a writer is to consume as much poetry as you possibly can. I read constantly, whether online (poetry magazine has every issue dating back to the 20's on their database, all free) or just by picking up books when I have a spare tenner.
I would never feel inadequate as a poet. Your words are yours, thats what makes them so special. But if you want to improve, I would just familiarise myself with whats going on in the poetry world and go from there.
Hope this is of some help.
Tue, 24 Apr 2018 08:50 pm
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Pat Hughes

Thanks for replying Stu.
I'm tempted to give it a go,if only as an introduction to possibly,maybe going back into education.
I read obsessively, my daughter buys books and I nick them out of her house.
I have only just finished an amazing workshop with a poet by the name of Maria McManus, I think the workshop(spread over six months) has made me realise that I sometimes succeed in having a way with words but I need to improve my basic skills.
I will check out Arvon.
Tue, 24 Apr 2018 11:17 pm
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There's always got to be an opposite Pat.
Personally I do not read other "established poets" work for fear of being too impressed and somewhat guided by their styles.

Stu is right, you hone your craft by doing it. For my money there isn't a creative writing course worth studying.

Go and sit in a park.....there's a poem there

Sit and listen to people on a bus.....there's a poem there

Capture a phrase from a book.......etc etc
Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:13 pm
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I have barely read any poetry. First of all because I wasn't interested in it until I started writing it. And now, because I'm so busy writing it I don't get round to reading it, apart from on here or if I'm writing a review.

From what I've read of yours Pat, some of it is astonishingly good. Do the course if you want, as Stu says it's free so why not? But don't lose your voice.
Thu, 26 Apr 2018 01:00 pm
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Laura - I have several voices. Which one should I lose?
Thu, 26 Apr 2018 04:26 pm
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Pat Hughes

Thank you Graham and Laura.
I think I'm going to give it a go.
It is a free course and a gentle introduction to getting back into education.
I can put a poem together, and I enjoy the process of finding a theme but I feel like I'm missing something.
I have had a few pieces published but have no desire to make poetry a full time career.
I write for pleasure and for its therapeutic benefits.
I appreciate all your comments.
Thu, 26 Apr 2018 09:09 pm
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Steven - the smart-arsed one.
Fri, 27 Apr 2018 11:38 am
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Actually, here's the thing. If you din't read, you're not a poet. If you don't immerse yourself in poetry from all places & all times you're just swimming in the shallows. You'll always be swimming in the shallows if you don't read. You should be influenced - in the same any great artist is partly an amalgam of all the artists they've fallen in love with and tried to emulate, and broken away from and been inspired by. You can't be anything other than a paddler if you don't read.

Get thee to a library. Read outside the box, translations, weird avant gardists, rhymesters, haiku mongers, fall in love with language. And stop looking for your voice. It (or they) will find you.
Fri, 27 Apr 2018 11:55 am
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Aye right Steve, I'm not a poet, if you say so. Just the one book out and another one coming, gigging regularly for 6 years and that.

I've been in love with language since being a nipper and read voraciously, just not poetry. And you don't get to write The Rules.
Fri, 27 Apr 2018 12:54 pm
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Rupi Kaur has books out. Jeffery Archer has books out. Don't make 'em any good.
Fri, 27 Apr 2018 01:48 pm
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They are known as 'writers' though, presumably? In fact, a cursory google shows me that the first is described as a poet, and the second as an English novelist.

Value judgement wasn't a part of your original definition of a poet. Any more nudging around of the goalposts, God of Rules?
Fri, 27 Apr 2018 01:51 pm
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Thing is I'm tired of all this bollox about being afraid of being influenced. It is and always was nonsense. How do you think anyone ever got to be good at anything if they never learnt from people who were better than them? Poetry is an art like painting or making music. Sure, you can bang out a few tunes without much training, but unless your listening to music you'll never be a great one. You might even be popular ("regularly gigging"...) and sure it's a safe place to be but it's paddling about in the shallows, it's not swimming.

And Greg - stop being afraid of being influenced by other peoples' styles. Cause otherwise all you'll be influenced by is bad advertising (that's what most rhyming poetry sounds like to me - one of those annoyingly rhymy adverts for building societies.)

I might not get lots of audiences (and I don't do so bad - I've had about six books out) but I do have the feeling that what I have written is at least worthy of comparison with some great writers.

It's fine to stay in the shallows. Lots of people spend their whole lives in the artistic shallows. You just have to walk into any art gallery in the Lake District to see lots of nice pretty views by perfectly competent painters. Or go to any Slam and hear someone shouting out perfectly competent rhymes that might offend your granny but are about as artistically adventurous as an episode of My Family. But hey, that's popular and gets the cheers and doesn't actually involve either the artist or the audience having to actually stretch themselves. It's not art it's Court Jesting.
Fri, 27 Apr 2018 02:21 pm
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Greg? Nothing to do with me. But that's the second time today Graham and I have been confused with each other. Interesting discussion, this. I find plenty of time to read other poets, since I don't write enough. I do think it's important to do so. I plan to read more now I'm no longer doing the news!
Fri, 27 Apr 2018 02:52 pm
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Steven, you speak with an elitist tongue. I have always loathed the very hint of elitism. Your definition of 'good' is exactly that - yours. I've read some of your stuff. We will have to disagree on what is 'good'. 'Worthy of comparison', 'great writers' - it's all just puffs of self-important hot air.

Anyone can gain enjoyment from any number of different styles.

I personally am not 'afraid' of being influenced. I'd just rather read novels than books of poetry.
Fri, 27 Apr 2018 02:55 pm
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Well I've been accused of worse things than 'elitism...' Usually I get accused of wanting to destroy tradition... guilty as charged!?

And I'm probably just going through a Mr Grumpy stage. Of course it's only one of the real me's out there (I'm not a great believer in the unified self) - another is perfectly happy with the variety of stuff out there.

But I do confess to being very puzzled as to why anyone would not want to read poetry. I couldn't be without (I find novels far too long-winded these days. It can take a page to describe someone's face! I only need a line!)
Fri, 27 Apr 2018 04:19 pm
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I hope this is helpful, Pat.
Fri, 27 Apr 2018 06:30 pm
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<Deleted User> (18980)

By my reckoning Steven beats Laura 6 to 1. So he must be a better poet. Quantity is everything.
Fri, 27 Apr 2018 09:52 pm
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You're reading the wrong books then Steven. Muriel Spark is one of the tightest writers on the planet, not one word wasted. Ray Bradbury, David Mitchell, David Peace, Annie Proulx - I could go on, but these are some of the writers you might want to read.

Anyway, for once, John Coopey has a point. My apologies to you Pat for the mahoosive derail.
Sat, 28 Apr 2018 12:02 pm
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When was the other time today that you were mistaken for yours truly then Greg? Just asking!
Sat, 28 Apr 2018 01:25 pm
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Yes sorry Pat.

Quite often these discussion threads are highjacked by an opinionated spat between two/three members but occasionally there is a smidge of light that comes from their protestations. In this case I guess its............

Everyone has their own view on what makes good/great poetry".

Will it help you write better poetry (as in your original question)....unlikely!

Sat, 28 Apr 2018 01:36 pm
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It is one way to go, but in an age where there is so much information available if you narrow your focus to some of your most admired poets there is a lot you will be able to learn to improve your craft. Along with additional readings.
Sat, 28 Apr 2018 02:04 pm
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that rupi kaur book is utter bollocks though
Sat, 28 Apr 2018 08:15 pm
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Pat Hughes

John,it has certainly given me a lot to mull over.
Sat, 28 Apr 2018 08:37 pm
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Pat Hughes

Graham,I've quite enjoyed the debate,from a distance.
Sat, 28 Apr 2018 08:37 pm
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