Award-winning and prolific poet Daljit Nagra is one of the judges for the London Writers Awards poetry category. On his own website, he acknowledges the support and guidance that he has had throughout his career. We thought we would chat to him to find out more about just how valuable this can be for a writer.
Do writers need structured support? If so, why?
Funny you should ask because I’ve just been thinking about the importance of building an inner critical voice. This voice is a composite of tutors and peers who you’ve come to value and whose feedback you trust. All writers get sloppy as runny porridge, and hope their weakest line is their best line. Once you’ve worked with poets and peers, you can actually hear them in your head saying things like, ‘Daljit, this is not good enough…this is a cliché and not a highly original line…you’ve done this trick several times already…this is very good but what about…’ Un the short term, structured support also gives realistic short term goals which help you become more productive, more creative and help to build your confidence. I would not have made it as a poet if I had not had structured support! Thank you to all my tutors who built me up with structured support.
What’s the value of being part of a writing group?
Well I’ve already answered that question. Though I would also add, being part of a group means you have a community who understand you and don’t think you’re weird because you write poems. Being part of a group means you’re part of a rock band that loves you and dotes on your eccentricities, the weirder you are the more they love you. Even after the group has split, it is unlike a proper rock band, in that your band will never really split. I am still in touch with people from my groups over a decade after we first met. I workshop with two members from my group who still give me feedback to help me become a better writer. Where would I be without them is the same as saying, where would I be as a writer? Answer to both, I’d be in rock band doldrums, which is a grey and purple place that smells of rotten broccoli.
So finally, Daljit, you’ve chosen to work with London Writers Awards. Why?
I have chosen this project because I value the microscopic time travel into technical matters that stop writers from merely splurging with tongues sticking out. With guidance, you could be speaking sensually, dramatically and in a way that will grip the reader. Without trying out new techniques, being pushed into new areas of forms, lineation, imagery, perspective and voice, the new writer simply runs on the spot with a one-track song played without much variety over and over tediously again. Many senior poets who never formally learn to write amazing poetry run on the spot. Sad, I know, but let’s not name names, just in case I’m one of them. Finally, the judging London Writers Awards will teach new writers the art of getting your work out there, for that is indeed an art all of it own making. Some poets have become international stars who wear designer clothes (sad, I know) but who jet all over the world simply because they have a mega media profile, which they themselves engineered. London Writers Awards will teach you how to make a career out of writing. From one poem will become the seeds of many poems, many collections, many readings and one day, you too may be judging London Writers Awards!