Naturally I agreed and I can honestly say that the generous payment that was offered didn’t influence my decision one bit.
The brief given me was to write a poem which would say something memorable and engaging about my local area and be suitable to be broadcast within a two minute time-slot.
Ideally the poem should send out a positive message of celebration of my local area with references to its geography, community and culture and should be composed from the point of view/in the voice of a local landmark or well-known object connected to the place.
It's a huge responsibility to be, if only in a poetic sense, a spokesman for the island but I felt honoured to have been given the task. A number of UK poets have also been approached and given a similar briefing in relation to their own geographical locations.
A commission of this sort provides a considerable challenge, of course, especially when it comes with a tight deadline.
What helped considerably was that, from the outset, I had a very clear idea what my subject would be: a notable Guernsey landmark that has long fascinated me.
I spent some time reading up on my subject, jotting down ideas and seeking the best way to interpret my subject’s “voice”.
Then I began the painstaking process of writing what I hoped would be a memorable poem of which the Guernsey people could be proud.
After several discarded drafts, I felt that had a piece of writing I was satisfied with, so I read it to my wife, Jane.
(It’s my great fortune to be married to a fellow writer, especially one as accomplished as Jane, who is hugely supportive and encouraging but never afraid to offer an honest, occasionally brutal, opinion of a newly-written poem or short story.)
To my great relief she was thrilled with it but pointed out something that I had failed to keep in mind: that my reading of the new poem took close to four minutes, not the maximum two minutes required by the BBC.
So I began the slow and painful task of editing the four-minute poem down to a piece of less than two minutes.
Editing is something, generally speaking, that most poems benefit from, but cutting out what I believed was so much valuable material was obviously a painful experience.
With Jane’s patient help however I succeeded in making those hard decisions, and managed to abridge the four-minute poem to a workable two-minute piece.
Much to my delight, the BBC-size poem still works very well.
Alas, I can’t share it with you here as it’s now the property of the BBC, at least until after National Poetry Day, 6th October, when I will read it during an interview with Jenny Kendall-Tobias on her mid-morning show on BBC Radio Guernsey.
|"Easy reading is damn hard writing" Nathaniel Hawthorne.|