When I was 4 years old, my mother’s brother came to lodge with us, and my education really began from that date. I lived in Hove, Sussex, UK, and my father commuted to London every day, so I didn’t see him very much as I was asleep by the time he got home. My uncle decided that it was up to him to be my tutor, so he taught me arithmetic, reading and writing. He was unused to children so he treated me as an adult. I could therefore read at a very early age and I recited the “Daffodils” and “The Charge of the Light Brigade” to family friends. So I was reading and reciting poetry before other literature. I was sent to a small private school at 6 years old and was put into a class of much older children because of my abilities. My English teacher had me reading “Hiawatha” out loud in class, which I really enjoyed because of the marvelous rhythm of the verse. This all gave me a thirst for reading and I used to read under the bedclothes by torchlight, so it is no wonder that I became myopic by the age of 11.
We then moved to London and at my Grammar School, I had prose published in the annual school magazine. I started singing in the school choir and was in theatrical productions. Culture was therefore a part of my life. I carried on writing poetry until I got married at the age of 20. I had 3 daughters in 28 months so I didn’t have much time for myself. After separating from my husband when my girls were 3, 4 and 5, I started writing again. I have a large portfolio of work, and have recently written two articles for an English magazine here in France, where I now live.
If you are interested in writing some poetry, which is very cathartic, read good books and poetry. If you can read poetry aloud, you will be able to hear the rhythm, whether it is a rhyming or a non-rhyming poem. Count the beats, if necessary. If you have an idea for a poem or story, that’s great! However I sometimes start when one line of poetry comes into my head spontaneously. I write it down, and carry on from there, usually working a small story into my poems. It’s like writing anything: know your subject, have an interesting start, and finish with a flourish and a closure of the story. Practice over and over again until you are satisfied with what you have written. I’m lucky in that when I write, once I start I finish very quickly, whether it’s for myself or for a commission. I seem to be able to work it all out in my head.
For a beginner, I would suggest you write your ideas down. Keep a pad by your bed as sometimes ideas come to you in the middle of the night. Some of my best work has come to me during the early hours, and the next day, when I read it back, I am often astonished that I actually wrote it. Reading and writing help to keep one’s mind active into older age, so enjoy yourselves – you never know what you can achieve until you do it.