I was drawn to the Wild Words competition by its connection to the Winter Solstice and the Full Moon theme.
I practise a form of Chinese astrology called Ba Zi and the mid-winter equivalent is known as ‘Dung Gee’ - the time of maximum yin. This and the Chinese five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water, which make up the charts I draft, deeply relate to the seasons.
At first when I chose ‘Dog Days’ as my prompt, it was because I associated this time of year with what the Chinese recognise as late summer and the earth element. I live in Cornwall, which is a place I never tire of exploring and, to me, holds a wild kind of beauty. And, through my studies, I’ve become more aware of these seasonal cycles in nature.
As with most of my poetry, I think I’m going to write about one thing and find myself led in a totally different direction. I was heavily pregnant in the late summer of 2014 and that strong memory came to me as I began. Although the season of earth is linked to nourishment and a mother’s love, this wasn’t a conscious thought whilst writing. This part of the process seemed intuitive, as I feel ‘wild words’ can be.
My first drafts are always by hand, as I like the freedom it gives me to cross things out, rewrite and jot down notes wherever I am. I liken it to decluttering in a way, as I find I need to create a mess in order to put everything in place. This is where a closed form helps because, like a deadline or theme, it gives me constraints that keep me focussed. And, by choosing a form with rhyme and/or repetition I have to work to that structure, which suits that part of my mind that likes to make things fit.
I tend to jump back and forth within stanzas, altering the rhyme or even the form if it no longer works with the flow of the poem. I keep honing the work until it feels right; reading it aloud helps me to see if anything jars.
Depending on the subject matter, I also like to research around the theme. I found that in China, Sirius is known as the Celestial Wolf, which seemed perfect to include, as it kept that link to my initial inspiration.
Stacey was one of the two runners up, in the Wild Words Winter Solstice Competition 2017, with her poem 'Dog Days'. It's published separately on this website.