Alan Brownjohn published his first poetry collection, The Railings, in 1961, and has since then been a major figure on the British poetry scene, chairing the Poetry Society between 1982 and 1988 and serving as poetry critic for the New Statesman. He has also sat on the Arts Council literature panel, was a Labour councillor and a parliamentary candidate, has written four novels, two books for children and a critical study of Philip Larkin. His Collected Poems was published by Enitharmon in 2006.
Imagine you have a small rectangular frame, of say 12" x 9", the kind in which you'd fit a small picture or a large photograph.
Look through this imagined object at a view of your choice, wide or narrow, spacious or limited. As examples (but please don't use any of these): clouds against a background of blue sky, a patch of grass beside a garden hedge, a street corner round which people appear or disappear, the space on a door which includes its handle and a bolt long unused because it's painted over.
Write a description in note form of everything you see in this framed space, in as much literal detail as possible. This should be a straight descriptive task, no imagination to be used – yet.
After a few minutes, sit down and write a poem on whatever your closely-examined, minutely-described space suggests to you. Use your imagination as freely as you wish, to stay close to what was in the frame, or to leave it altogether. Any theme, or development of what you observed. Any plot, experience or emotion it invokes.
Please preface your poem with an account of the "view" in not more than 30 words, eg "I was looking at leaves, a matchstick and reflections on the surface of a butt of rainwater in a friend's garden."