Poetry lessons by Roger McGough

Quite a few years ago now, I went on a poetry workshop in Grasse – the perfume capital of France, with my friend, and proper poet, Patrick Chapman. (Who, incidentally, has a new collection out should you wish to pur-chase a copy. I would recommend it – he’s very good.)

The workshop was held in La Rivolte, a 19th century villa overlooking Grasse and the Cote d’Azur. We were taught by the incredible, Roger McGough. Probably most famous as a Liverpool ‘beat’ poet of the 1960s along with Adrian Henri and Brian Patten.

Apart from being a brilliant poet, Roger is a fine tutor and very down-to-earth man. One of the exercises he taught us was to flick through a book, pick a page at random, and write down the top line of the page.

This is the first line of your poem.

Then off you go.

You use the line from the book as a window into your imagination.

What comes next?

It’s up to you.

Once you’ve finished your poem, go back to the top of the page and change the first line of the poem. That way, it is truly yours.

Normally, when I write poetry I like to write about personal experiences, so this method can seem a little detached. But it’s a great way of getting your creative juices going if you’re in a bit of a rut. In fact, I borrowed the technique to write a screenplay based on one of Modigliani’s paintings.

Anyway, here’s one I prepared earlier using this technique.


By David Milligan-Croft

I paced around the boutique,
Trying to look inconspicuous
Amongst the throng
Of Saturday afternoon shoppers.

I could see your feet
And calves protruding
From beneath the changing room door.

Your skirt slid to the floor.
You stepped out of it,
And kicked it to one side.

Your hands appeared,
Clutching a black chiffon dress,
Then disappeared again as you drew it up your thighs.

After a few seconds,
Your calves wiggled, as if
You were marching on the spot.

Your feet turned to the left,
Then they turned to the right.
I visualised you admiring your behind.

Suddenly, an old girlfriend appeared,
And asked how I was getting on.
Then the door creaked slowly open:
“How do I look?”

P.S. Roger McGough wrote quite a lot of the screenplay for The Beatles film – Yellow Submarine, but never actually got a credit. Just thought you should know.


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Filed under Books, Ideas, Inspiration, Poetry, Writing

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