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Talking Poetry with Luke Durnell

Throughout this week, we are celebrating World Poetry Day here at and trying to catch up with as many of the different people that we work with who are involved in poetry. One of those people is Luke Durnell, who is joining us today to talk about all things poetry, including life under lockdown, becoming a better poet and building confidence through spoken word.

J.Allan Longshadow: Luke, please just tell me a little bit about who you are and where you are joining me from.

Luke Durnell: Hi, my name’s Luke Durnell I’m currently in the Ceiriog Valley in North Wales and I’ve been writing poetry for a good ten years, although it’s really over the last three years that it’s really become a serious thing.

J.Allan Longshadow: Tell me about your journey into poetry, how did it all begin for you? 

Luke Durnell: Well, I’ve always been a creative. I’ve got a creative mind. But I suppose really didn’t start until I did English at A Level and that must have been about 2013, 2014. It’s sort of grown since then. I just thought,  give it a  go and see what happens and I found that I actually enjoyed it, and I just carried on writing.

J.Allan Longshadow: Are there any particular sort of topics that you particularly enjoy writing about? Do you have any sort of area that you specialise in or is it very much what comes to you of the moment? 

Luke Durnell: It’s a lot of what comes in the moment. Yeah. In the moment. There was a lot of nature poetry when I started, but at the moment, it’s got much more into deeper emotions and questions. I’ve tried to branch out as much as I can really and just try to push the poetry, or rather, push myself into different areas of poetry and different themes. 

J.Allan Longshadow: Do you think the events of the last twelve months – even more than that now, really – have they had any kind of effect on the direction your poetry has taken?

Luke Durnell: I think definitely. As I said, I think there’s been much more poetry that’s been linked to emotions and questions and where we all want to be as well. And as I mentioned when we were talking before the interview, we are moving house too, so fresh starts and all that will come into play as well.

But I think definitely the lockdowns had an effect. I found it quite difficult to write at the beginning of it. I think, because with someone who’s creative, you’re expected to go out and sort of live life and find inspiration from that. I think it was because of that lack of inspiration in terms of getting on with day-to-day life.

I think we’ve had to also start looking into ourselves a lot more. And I’ve been walking quite a lot, which I didn’t do before, but recently I’ve been looking much more around where I live and the inspirations of the hills and, and really just writing down what I wouldn’t normally write down, which is the day to day things I do.

So yeah, I think there are aspects of it that have changed recently in the last, certainly in the last twelve months. 

J.Allan Longshadow: Do you think poetry is something that’s helped you over the last twelve months? 

Luke Durnell: Oh yeah, definitely. I think it’s good to concentrate on something that you can sort of let go with really and live in a creative environment and get your imagination going and think, oh, well this connects to this and we could do something with this, just to really just change.

J.Allan Longshadow: It almost allows you to change perspective in a sense, doesn’t it. And in a situation where it’s actually been so hard to get any fresh perspective, hasn’t it, in many ways.

Luke Durnell: So yeah. I think it’s sort of just letting go and just concentrating on something, when there is very little to distract you from just sitting in a chair, doing nothing. But I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed it more, perhaps because I’ve been able to sort of concentrate on it more. 

J.Allan Longshadow: I suppose one thing we have gained from the last twelve months is an opportunity to focus on different things that matter to us. And I suppose that’s good.

Do you think that poetry has helped you in terms of your personal strength, in terms of actually getting through this time with all the challenges we’ve all gone through. Has it helped you in that respect? 

Luke Durnell: I think so, yes. I think it also depends on sort of what poetry you’re wanting to write. Of course, there’s poetry that’s comfort and there’s poetry that’s difficult and harsh, and it can be quite bleak. And sometimes it’s good to write the bleak poetry because that gets it out of your system. So I think it’s good to have a balance and just sort of get things off your chest I think, and I think that’s quite good, especially in these times. There have been lots of frustrating aspects of this, but there have been good things as well. But there’ve definitely been frustrating parts of lockdown and the whole COVID situation.

But I think it’s quite good to put those frustrating elements in the poems too and also question things, because sometimes that can open doors into new poetry, which it has for me, because I think my poetry has always been quite safe a lot of the time. And I think it’s been a good exercise in opening a new door.

J.Allan Longshadow: Do you have any sort of process you follow with your poetry or is it very much a case of just letting it come to you? Do you have any way of working that is your own way? 

Luke Durnell: Some can come easier than others, some I can just write down and I’m happy with it. With some, I need to take a lot longer to process and to get it right, in that case I just put ideas down in a list. Some come to nothing and some get there. But I think one of the things that I need to do is to slow down and read it back to myself, which I’m not very good at doing, which is not very good.

But certainly, some come in a flash, they’re just there in front of me, and some do need to take a bit longer. 

J.Allan Longshadow: I’ve seen you perform at various spoken word events in the past. Do you enjoy performing poetry? 

Luke Durnell: Well if we go back to when I first started, I was very apprehensive about reading. I think reading poetry is different from reading anything else. I’m alright if I’m reading someone else’s work and I read in church and that sort of thing, but reading my own poetry, I found that quite a big step. And I think it’s because it’s something you’ve written and because it’s poetry and I think poetry is more personal than anything else you can write. 

I don’t know why that is, but for me, I think poetry is the ultimate way of baring your soul in some form, and I think I found it very difficult to begin with, but I’ve learnt to get over that by just doing it again and again, and just going to as many spoken word events as I can and just trying to grin and bear it.     

I’ve actually found that it is a useful exercise and it does help the more you do it. But yeah, at the beginning I wasn’t very good, but you’ve just got to keep doing it as much as you can. And you know, poetry is meant be shared. So you think, why have I just got it kept in my book when I can actually read it? And of course, reading poetry, it’s how it should be.

J.Allan Longshadow: There’s something magic, isn’t there, in poetry too, when you can bring it alive, take it from the page and then bring it to the microphone and bring it out into the world with your own take on it. I think that’s something I particularly like in poetry.

Luke Durnell: Definitely. Although sometimes you think, why did I put that down? That doesn’t sound right at all, which is also why I think you should read it beforehand!

J.Allan Longshadow: At the same time, I don’t believe that poetry should be clinical, it shouldn’t be a sterile form that’s devoid of mistakes. 

Luke Durnell: That’s true as well. I think there’s got to be a balance because I think if it gets too worked upon, the magic which you had at the beginning has gone and it’s become a little bit too clinical.

J.Allan Longshadow: Finally, one last thing as we wrap up, is there any advice you’d give to somebody else who sort of wanted to start exploring poetry?

Luke Durnell: I’d just say give it to go. That’s what I did. What I did was I heard people do their own and I didn’t really know what to make of it. So I just thought, well, you know, these people are having a go, so why can’t I? So it’s just literally a case of putting pen to paper and I think it’s important to write something you enjoy as well. And don’t make it difficult.

Start with a rhyme. Start with rhyming poetry, and then when you are at a stage where you think, well, I’ve got this one under my belt, move on to something else. And I think that’s what I found, it’s about just having a go, but definitely write what you enjoy. 

J.Allan Longshadow: Write what you enjoy, look at others, keep learning and just keep, keep developing your skills.

Luke Durnell: Absolutely.

J.Allan Longshadow: Luke, thank you ever so much for joining me today and being part of our celebrations for World Poetry Day. And I look forward to seeing more of your work in the very near future. 

Luke Durnell: Thank you very much. It’s been great.

To see more of Luke’s work, check out his Facebook Page

Jan Longshadow
I am a coach, mentor, author and radio presenter with a passion for positivity. I founded in 2016.

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