Hello Dear Reader
Writing Weekend Part 1
In the past, I have attempted to visit writing festivals. There has been some success, to be honest. Some of them in St Ives, Cornwall during September holidays. That is a difficult venue now due to various things. I did visit Hay-on-Wye festival, however, that was more a literary weekend rather than writing. Many festivals take place when time is short or the best parts are during a week when hotel prices are high.
Having spent many a time in St Ives, I sort of knew what I wanted from these. Really I need a writing weekend to finally prove I can write. Well, I can write as I published a book. What I want to prove to myself is that I can write both poetry and fiction. I have been successful to a degree, having both a poem and short story published by Keele Creative Writing. Yet I want to push myself.
Entering the unknown
This past weekend I managed (with great help), to get a place on a poetry workshop at York’s Literature festival. This for me was both very exciting and rather special, as added to the workshop was two talks, one by Mark Gatiss and one by Michael Palin. Two people whom I knew as both performers and writers.
York itself is a wonderful place to visit, it has history and atmosphere that can make a writer think. There is a rich vein of architecture, surrounded by ancient Roman walls. Yet there is the odd flashes of modern just peaking here and there. Very much like St Ives.
First stop for the weekend was York’s Art gallery, another old imposing building. This poetry workshop was entitled ‘Bodies and Flesh‘. Now, straight away you have to look at the title and step back. You can fall into the trap of wondering what or which way it might go, but for me, it was the chance to be guided by a poetry author.
I had no idea what to expect, which in itself is good. I was not concerned about meeting new people, I do that all the time. I was mindful that my work might not be as good but this was a chance to learn. So of I went into the unknown.
There were 10 others on the course and the lecturer. We all introduced ourselves, each of us a little shy I felt as we all wanted to learn. Having self-published I was conscious not to ‘boast, it did not feel right. The lecturer, Christy Ducker, was a published poet and took us through what the workshop was intended to cover. Reading a few poems, making notes, writing a couple drafts and visiting the art gallery for inspiration.
Shaking out the gray mist.
I re-learnt something valuable within the first 10 minutes. I have been told it or read it before, it made sense… again. The first task was to shift that gray mist that often clouds the mind, obscuring the wordsmith. A simple three-minute exercise writing the following;
‘My body is…’ and then you add a few words about your body.
Its simple effective and should be likened to a warm-up before any sort of training. You should always warm-up, no athlete would just start running. It was difficult at first but quickly became easier as I let my mind go. The fog lifted nicely.
We read a couple of poems, the subject being bodies and flesh you can guess the various ones we concentrated on. The first poem was this one.
Standing dripping wet, water from the shower running down.
I gaze at myself in the mirror.
It feels like years since I last explored like this.
It’s my body, I should know it better than the water.
The mirror distaste the real truth, my skin appears faded after youth.
I watch a droplet find its own path down my thigh.
Should it swerve like that avoiding a pothole?
My back seems shaped yet oddly poised, pulled around muscles tense.
Water stops collecting in odd places, should that really be like that?
An interesting start if not a stark view from the poet of their own body.
Wandering a Gallery
After a couple more poems and stretching the mind, it was time for our first venture out of the classroom. I was completely unprepared for this, not in the sense of notebook, pens etc but it was for me a really interesting and fresh idea. The plan was to go into the gallery and study a few pictures. The exhibition, of course, was on bodies and flesh, all fitting into place now. Oddly wandering the gallery was a woman in her pjs, quoting poetry. I was glad that was not part of the workshop, I had not brought any.
We had to pick a picture and write about it from the subject’s viewpoint, not the artist. It fitted the poem we had just read. I decided after a wander to pick a painting called ‘The Wrestlers’ by William Etty. It took me a few minutes to consider what I might write about. They do say inspiration finds a way and as I wrote down a few words it hit me. What if the picture, of two men, one white, one black fighting, was a snapshot of real chess pieces? I realised this was my view into my poem. For me the two ‘bodies’ had been forced to fight, maybe daily, maybe weekly, whatever for the whim of their owners. Hence the outline of my poem formed.
Bits of bodies
I was enjoying this now, as the workshop was challenging my thoughts, making me see some things differently. It was also very engaging to the point that time passed quicker than I would have liked. Another couple of readings and then back to the gallery to look at more art. A poem about what I might see in a mirror was written, followed by the final task. This one was based around being out of control of your own body. I chose the subject of archery and how I can be used to show the execution of a shot. It is still to be finished mine but it worked.
So the workshop ended and I was both happy at what I had learned and achieved, yet wished it was an all day event. It certainly has helped me think about different styles, ideas and how to reuse pictures etc. It also helped in a project I am working on, combining poems to pictures I have taken or will take. It was rewarding for me to see that I could put my mind to new ideas and explore different strands of poetry. Clearly, the three need working on. The draft of Mirror is a good start and I do like how the poems began. There is always more to do, but looking at others work it shows me poetry is such a vast amazing field.
Tagline: ‘Bodies are poems, it’s just finding the right words’