How does a poem usually start for you?

When I start writing a poem I find that they can start in a variety of ways - although there are a few constants. Probably the most common one being poems starting with a specific visual image. And that's normally a visual image in which I can sense an idea as well. But I don't always know what that idea is - in fact quite often the image actually leads me into the ideas. So for example there's a poem I've written called 'The Light Fell' and when I started writing that - what that really started with was an image of a valley that I'd seen while I was standing at someone's grave at their funeral and half of this valley was lit and the other half was dark. And this image really burned itself into my mind and I was aware that it was echoing something I was feeling at that time - I couldn't work out what. And it was only in actually writing the poem that I realised that this was sort of symbolising for me these two very contrasting feelings that I was experiencing at that moment. Which was obviously great sadness that this person was leaving my life but also an awareness of the celebration of their life and it was that idea that I found in that first image. Another way that poems can sometimes start - and again quite often for me - is with a story, with a narrative I've been told, or even with someone I've met, but again what is always important in that case is there's a sense that this story has a resonance that goes much further than the simple narrative itself. It has to lead me somewhere else - it has to lead to a point of resonance again I suppose.

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