Jack Underwood Asks “Why Should Anyone Care?”

Think of your poems as a person going up to strangers and talking to them – what must the poem do to make people listen? Award winning poet Jack Underwood’s workshop will help you write a new poem to engage your reader.

Jack Underwood’s Workshop

1. Make a list of ten objects.

2. For each object write a true statement and then a false or imagined statement.

3. Remove all your true statements and read what you’ve got left; these imagined statements are the basis of your poem. You can either rearrange these statements to form your poem, or you can select one or two of your favourite statements and expand these to form your poem.

When you are happy with your poem, you could submit it to one of the competitions or other opportunities on our Poetry Opportunities Page.

When this challenge first opened, Jack was inviting poets to send him their poems and he would select some to receive feedback. Congratulations to Linda Phan, Ruby Mason, Helen Zhou, Upasna Saba, Emma Kemp, Jack Little, Ruth Darlow, Amy Dowler, Yemeya Lanlehin and Hannah Charlton who were selected by Jack for feedback.

Don’t worry if you missed out this time, there will be new opportunities in the coming months – subscribe to make sure you don’t miss out!

Jack Underwood was born in Norwich in 1984. He graduated from Norwich School of Art and Design in 2005 and has recently completed a PhD in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College, where he also teaches English Literature and Creative Writing.
He is a librettist, musician and co-edits the anthology series Stop Sharpening Your Knives. He won an Eric Gregory Award in 2007 and was named a Faber New Poet in 2009. His debut pamphlet was published by Faber in October 2009 and his poems also feature in ‘Voice Recognition: 21 poets for the 21st Century’ from Bloodaxe. He reviews for Ambit and Poetry London.
Jack Underwood


34 thoughts on “Jack Underwood Asks “Why Should Anyone Care?”

    1. You’re welcome to submit poems from overseas. It’s great to hear from new readers and writers of poetry wherever you’re based.

    1. I just looked at the objects I used during the day (umbrella, guitar etc.) and imagined they had some kind of story to tell,it’s not so much the object than what you say about it.

  1. Hi Laura, if you’re stuck choosing your objects you might find it helps to add a random element? Pick up the closest novel or poetry book to where you are sitting. Turn to pages 12, 15, 18, 21 and 24, and then select the third noun mentioned on each page! That way you’ll have five unexpected things to write about.

    1. Hi Jess, some of the very best stories are not factually true, the same is the case for poems. However I can see your concern, but we’re not encouraging you to submit just a list of items, we want you to use the exercise as a starting point to help you build new ideas. Many of the poets who have already submitted have used the exercise to set them writing, but as they develop their poems they have moved away from a list-like structure to explore one particular object and sometimes to create a narrative around that. The idea is that the exercise should be a fun way to start writing, and that by asking you to write both true and false statements you’ll have the chance to explore how the most obvious answer is rarely the most interesting.

    1. Fabulous choice – I am yaalws quoting the line ‘Lose something everyday’, Harvey! Such a wonderful mantra to live by. We set such store by the objects we surround ourselves with, this poem yaalws seemed rather liberating to me.

  2. Well my poem will be based around what I like and What I do and I am a Gymnast so here it goes:

    The gymnast

    The Bars, soft, moist and clean.
    The Beam, frigid, large and mean.
    The Vault, small, slow and easy.
    The Floor, hard, still and queasy.
    The Medals, heavy, soft and upsetting.
    The Trophies, angry, big and regretting.
    The gymnast, bulky, fat and lazy.
    The gymnast, shy, dry and dazy.

    By Ese-Oghene.

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