Guest Post by Angela Topping. ‘How Poetry Claimed Me’

by limebirdwriters

Today we have a real treat here at Limebird Writers. We are honoured to have Angela Topping, a renowned poet, educator, literary critic and author, writing about her experience with poetry. Enjoy! 🙂

How Poetry Claimed Me

When I was small, before I could read and write, my ambition when I grew up was to be one of those people who ‘said things’. I must have heard people saying, Shakespeare said, and Plato said etc and thought it was pretty cool to be quoted. I had a powerful passion for stories, and so I taught myself to read before starting school. My older sister used to sometimes read poems to me as well, those long narrative poems like ‘The Forsaken Merman’. Something must have rubbed off because I strongly recall making up rhymes and poems as I walked along, especially if I was on my own.

In my last year of primary school, two Canadian boys were staying with family friends, and were just a little older than me, so we became friends and they told me all about their home country. I found myself writing a poem, in free verse, all about Canada. It was weird. But it gave me a terrific buzz. More poems followed and I began to read poetry much more widely. At school we had been encouraged to learn poems by heart and I already loved poems by Blake, Wordsworth, John Drinkwater and Walter De La Mere.

By the time I was 14, I was writing poems seriously and reading as much poetry as I could lay my hands on, from the library mostly, as books were expensive. I had a wonderful anthology called The Golden Staircase, which I still have, bought with a 5 shilling book token and a kind contribution from mum, as it was 35 shillings!

I was showing my poems to my friends, always with the question, ‘is this a poem?’ By which I meant, is it any good? I was copying them out in neat into exercise books and getting friends to ‘read my collection’. I’d somehow even developed a characteristic style of free verse with a rhyme at the end.

Wasting time in the library, rummaging in strange dark corners, led to some fascinating discoveries, not least was Robert Graves’ The White Goddess’, which I found difficult but very interesting. I discovered and fell in love with many poets: Elizabeth Jennings, Louis MacNeice, T.S Eliot, Edward Thomas, Robert Frost. I enjoyed the poems we studied for English Literature O level, and learned all of them by heart, so poets like Wilfred Owen crept into my head and lodged there.  Our teacher would sometimes set us to write poems for homework, and was very encouraging indeed.

Poetry had become something I dedicated my life to, and I could never ever stop writing. I immersed myself in it and it has brought me so many rewards. Even now, writing a poem still gives me a buzz, as does finding a poem I love by other poets. I have made friends through poetry and it has helped me cope with some difficult times.

Angela Topping

Angela Topping

About Angela*

Angela is a poet. She is also an experienced teacher and holds a Masters degree in Arts in Education. She leads workshops with all ages from nursery to elders, building confidence in their ability to write, tell stories and make books. She enjoys giving readings of her poems, and putting together performances and one woman shows.  Widely published, she has performed and been poet-in-residence in a wide range of venues such as schools, libraries, bookshops and hospices. In 2013, she will take up a residency in Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden.

In 2011, a quotation from one of her poems appeared on the National Poetry Day poem cards and the same poem was featured in the athletics area of the Olympic stadium during the Games.

She was Highly Commended in the Cheshire High Sherriff’s Prize for Children’s Literature, with the only poem to be placed in the top five entries. In 2011, she was shortlisted for The Bridport Poetry Competition. Poems have appeared in a range of journals including Poetry Review and London Magazine.

Angela can be booked independently, or though Authors Abroad, The Windows Project and NAWE.

Angela also writes student guides and articles. She co-authored a range of GCSE texbooks published by OUP and several critical monographs published by Greenwich Exchange.

* – About section taken from Angela’s blog, which you can read/follow  here.

Twitter – @angelatopping

Find all her collections in print here.

Big thanks to Miss LimebirdCat for connecting Limebird and Angela together. 🙂

7 Comments to “Guest Post by Angela Topping. ‘How Poetry Claimed Me’”

  1. Hi Angela,

    Thank you so much for your fantastic post on our blog, it’s a real honour. It’s lovely to hear how you became a poet, and feel your passion for the written word. I’ve always found poetry really tricky to get right, but I do love the fluidity and melodic nature of a well written poem. This post inspires me to give it a go again!


  2. Congratulations on the residency, Angela! It’s good to know poetry is as alive and well as it’s ever been, with craftspeople like you championing its cause. 🙂

  3. Thank you, Angela, for sharing here.

    I came to poetry late (I think I was under the impression that it had to rhyme… However, since about 2005 I have been happily writing free verse (and – shock horror! – rhyming poems!).

    To me poetry is the perfect vehicle for two things, first of all I think that it really gets across a narrator’s voice (my favourite poem (if favourite is the right word) is Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum est’). The second thing that I have found (since discovering science fiction poetry) is that it somehow enables the writer to distil a story down to its most puissant form.

    I note that you enjoy giving readings of your poems, are they available in audio format anywhere? If not, have you thought of producing a CD or making them available online?

    Thanks again for dropping by!

  4. I like how Angela mentioned that poetry helped her cope in difficult times. It does help to be pulled out of ourselves with a good poem to make us realize we are not alone in experiencing a particular emotion or circumstance. I’m not much of a poet myself, but I do keep several poets on my shelf to dip into from time to time: Hayden Carruth, Seamus Heaney, James Dickey …”wringing the handlebars for speed/Wild to be wreckage forever.” Their words always primed me for editorial writing. Great stuff 🙂

  5. Angela thank you for your interview, and congratulations on the residency. My writing started with poetry, it will always hold a special place in my heart. I would love to read some of yours.

  6. Thank you for the interesting post Angela. I occasionally write poetry when the mood takes me, but I find it much harder to know whether what I’ve written is any good than I do with other forms of writing. I guess that’s to do with the more abstract nature of it, like certain forms of art.

  7. Fantastic words about poetry! I used to dabble in poetry through elementary school and middle school. By the time, I was in high school I writing poetry nightly to cope with my own version of teenage angst and even got so I was writing lyrics for my step dad who is a rock musician. I love poetry so much!

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