When our world breaks, we bend with it

This reflection on practice paper explores the role of form and playfulness in the serious business of poetic narrative to create stories we can access and understand, in order to recoup and recuperate after times of hardship and change. It is a process of cutting fear and anxiety down to size. In the process of constructing this essay, the strictures of the poetic forms of the sonnet, villanelle and tanka are conflated with the restrictive, confining walls of the home during the COVID-19 pandemic. And the transgressive nature of change in the way we live during confinement within the lock-downs is interrogated through the playfulness, irony and wry resignation of content located within the confines of the predetermined formality of the sonnet, villanelle and tanka.

Writing creatively about cancer

What motivates people to write creatively about cancer? How do people write lyrical poetry about cancer, and how does the resulting creative artefact impact on them as poets and their audience? Cancer poetry addresses the challenging issues of disease, illness, death, dying and bereavement, as well as the conundrums of living with cancer, and surviving. Cancer is a disease with a persona of mystery, often referred to through the use of negative metaphors such as the alien, evil and the foreign, while its medical treatment and recovery phases are described with warfare metaphors such as battle, fight, and losing the war. For the individual diagnosed with cancer there is often a sense of loss, particularly of the ‘self’. This essay explores the meaning that poets who have cancer have found in creating literary poetry about their experience and discusses the motivations and outcomes the author experienced as a result of writing cancer poetry.