CREATING OUTSIDE THE BOX
Many people still believe that poets look into themselves in order to write, spinning excess emotion into new poems.
But often, inspiration comes from being open to the outside world or even from playing with another art form.
As we enter the final month of the AVBOB Poetry Competition, the AVBOB Poetry Project is celebrating Annette Snyckers, poet and visual artist, whose debut collection of poems, Remnants, Restante, Reste (Modjaji, 2019) features poems in three languages. We asked her how her work as a visual artist has influenced her development as a poet.
“Although my writing and visual art are in separate compartments, they live in the same ‘home’ and speak to each other in ways I am not always consciously aware of. Sometimes colour and images (especially of landscapes) appear in my imagination – they have often led to the writing of a poem. In fact, most of my poems flow from images and not from thought alone.”
Snyckers explains how her life and work have been enriched by this movement between art forms.
“Each discipline has taught me specific ways of looking at and thinking about our world, of being present and open to what wants to be expressed. It has facilitated contact with different groups of people and led to stimulation and cross-pollination. It has allowed me access to different kinds of problems but also different kinds of delight!”
These gifts of working across two disciplines have mostly come as a surprise.
“There was no sudden ‘epiphany’ that convinced me to try my hand at writing poetry – it was a gradual process of falling in love with words. I always loved how words could be strung together to make patterns of sound and meaning. Never in my wildest dreams, however, did I even contemplate the possibility of writing poems myself – I was purely a passionate reader of poetry. It was only later, while doing writing courses and poetry workshops, that the door to writing my own poems opened.”
She has the following advice for aspiring poets wanting to experiment with other media, “Do it! It will stimulate your creativity and give your right brain a special treat. You are allowed to dabble; you don’t have to become a master at painting or whatever else you like to try besides writing poetry. Don’t wait for affirmation from outside that you have ‘talent’. We all start off fumbling, and unless we keep at it and repeatedly mess things up, we’ll never learn. At some stage, you will need input from outside and you might find criticism disappointing. Do not let it stop you! The most important thing is to stay open to learning and improving as you progress.”
In the next few days, write a poem based on one of the following exercises:
- Gaze for a long time at a statue or sculpture that fascinates you. Then write a poem which explores its stillness. (Do you feel any tension in that stillness? Does it make you want to move in a particular way?)
- What was the first painting that moved you deeply when you were growing up? Does it still move you in the same way or has your relationship to it changed? Write a poem addressed to the painter, describing what this painting has meant to you.
- Choose a piece of music that particularly haunts you. Then write a poem that responds to it. If it is a song with words, write something in response to these lyrics. If not, write a poem that responds to the emotions it evokes in you.
Remember that the AVBOB Poetry Competition reopened on 1 August 2023. Visit our website regularly at https://www.avbobpoetry.co.za/ for editing tips and advice as well as updates about upcoming workshops.