Paul Adrian won the UK's National Poetry Competition in 2010 with his poem 'Robin in Flight' - the first poem he had ever sent out for publication.
Since then, his poems have appeared in magazines including The Moth, And Other Poems, the poetry blog Eyewear, and an anthology of young poets, Lung Jazz. He received a commission from the British Craft Council to accompany their Twenty at Twenty exhibition.
Born in 1984 in Yorkshire, he still lives there. He is a support worker for autistic adults.
Here Paul talks about the journey his poem has taken him on.
A poem is often a journey in itself. You start off reading or writing without knowing where it might take you, or what it might become.
Simply put, I was reluctant to expend too much energy on my poem, because I didn’t think I had a chance. No mythologizing – I wrote it recumbent on the sofa in my flat, on a pad of A4 with a HB pencil. I started with a vague idea in my head about the malleability of matter, and slowly the page became that idea. The decision to enter it into the National Poetry Competition came late on, a second thought to another poem I (mistakenly) thought better. The two went off together, after a day of the kind of circular editing where you spend hours rearranging the words only to end up with a version identical to the one you started with. They were submitted about an hour before the competition deadline, with something of a frustrated, “that’ll have to do” resignation.
I didn’t look at it again until a day or two after I found out I’d won and began to practice reading it aloud. I’d never read a poem in front of anyone before, and the first time I did was (terrified) in front of a video camera for the Poetry Society. The second time was in front of an audience of poetic notables at the award ceremony. Carol Ann Duffy was stood a few feet to my left.
Since then, the poem has come and gone. I’ve been asked to sign copies of it, and responded with bewilderment. A copy which I hand-wrote and illustrated made £100 in a charity auction (doubly a surprise, considering my handwriting is barely legible). I’ve been in and out and around those two stanzas more times than I can remember, know it’s strengths, it’s weaknesses, every vowel and verb by heart. We are no longer intimate, but familiar. It no longer feels like something I created. Superior interpretations by other readers have taken away any ownership I may have once claimed. Mostly, poetry readers have no idea of me until I mention Robin and then they say “Oh, that was you”. The poem is the thing. That’s what people remember. This one became something I had no idea it knew how to be.
Read the other blogs in this tour on the Poetry Society website.
See all the posts in this series on BAP.
Enter the National Poetry Competition.