Tony Buzan would often start a lecture with the question, “By a show of hands, who is a poet?” Usually the response was zero with some delegates indignant to be asked such a question in what was supposed to be a serious lecture.

The stereotypical poet is a romantic drop out living in, an often drug induced, dream-world unconnected with real life. They are untidy, pale, frequently ill, have effeminate mannerisms, limp handshakes and overly dramatic and pretentious affectations. They are often pompous about their ‘art’ that is publicly accepted as utter rubbish or nonsense.

Obviously, this is a distortion of the true nature of a poet and making such associations limits personal development, expression and living a more enjoyable, varied life.

Although a prolific poet in later life, as a teenager Tony regarded poetry as, “a subject for the weak and feeble in both body and mind.” His life changed by a chance rendition by a teacher. 

The story is told in his Official Biography, “Our teacher at the time was a little, lank-haired, plain, and untrained lady whose voice you could hardly hear even when the classroom was not erupting with delinquent behaviour, which it usually was … She gave us even more ample opportunity for this by stating that today she was going to read us her favourite poem. This was not an auspicious start to a lesson! We all groaned loudly and in unison. The situation was made worse when, clutching her poetry book to her grubby white blouse, she announced that the poem was about a bird. Our groans became ostentatiously louder. Things got even worse when she proclaimed that the author was called Alfred!! We lolled melodramatically, mimicking histrionic boredom and despair…

Then something strange and eerie happened. She seemed to transform, like some other-worldly alien, as if a spirit had entered her being. Her posture changed and her voice became more powerful. She was wrapped in her own secure world of love and dreams for and about the poem she was about to read. She intoned hypnotically: “The Eagle by Alfred Lord Tennyson.” At this, for the first time in my classes with her, my ears slightly pricked up. The Eagle was my favourite bird, and Alfred was a Lord…

She continued:

THE EAGLE

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

The thunderbolt had indeed struck.

I sat, poleaxed, stunned by the condensed power and the immaculate precision with which Tennyson had so perfectly described ‘the King of Birds’, which for many years had been a beacon for me, and whose qualities exemplified so much of that with which I had identified. In that one moment my paradigms of poetry and life shifted totally and forever. I realised that poetry could express in unique, powerful and sublime ways the awesomely beautiful world of nature; that poetry could, on one level, expand and magnify that world by giving it other dimensions.

My first-ever poem:

THE CATCH

It stares through me with glazing eyes,
The blood, congealing on them, dries,
As gasping one last breath, it dies.
The fish that once looked so divine,
Lies smashed and dead, with broken spine,
I leave. The angler sorts his line.

Once I had read The Eagle and written The Catch, my mind was transformed. Rather than seeing things in the normal way, or not seeing them at all, my eyes were more opened to the beauty of everything, and to the possibilities of infinite metaphorical poetic connections.”

Everyone daydreams. This is essentially the basis of poetry. It is allowing free associations around a subject. The late poet laureate, and friend of Tony Buzan, Ted Hughes, encouraged his students to come up with unusual associations as the basis for writing a poem. Tony explains the technique in his book, ‘The Power of Creative Intelligence’ as follows:

“He would give his students a pair of apparently completely disconnected objects (such as ‘mother’ and ‘stone’), and would ask them to do a Mind-Map exercise to note down associations.

When the students had thought of 10 words around each object, Hughes would then instruct them to take one word from one concept and find associations between that and the ten words from the other one. They then moved to the second word from the first concept and found associations with the ten words from the other, and so on until they had associated all ten with all ten. To everyone’s amazement many of the associations were extremely unusual, highly imaginative, very provocative and often quite moving.

The students’ next task was to select the best ideas from all their thoughts, and from them to construct a creative and original statement, and ideally a poem.”

With a few simple techniques and giving yourself permission to play, anyone can become a poet!