Monday, 19 November 2012

Working the body

Yesterday I spent the day at a poetry workshop run by Ruth O'Callaghan from Camden and Lumen Poetry. We were a small group, just five of us.  Some had attended Ruth's workshops before and some not.  This was a first for me.  The subject for poetry for the day was the body and we began writing a continuous piece about what had happened to us since midnight until we arrived. We then made a list of things our body demanded or we demanded of it like sleep, food and illness. From this list we then chose one thing to write about in a short poem, how it affected us.  Mine ended up as a rant about disturbed sleep from an unthinking son!  However, it went down well.  We each read our poems and then could feedback our thoughts

The next exercise was to describe an action performed without actually saying what that thing was.  Not easy to guess!  One person wrote about the arm movement during a tennis serve, another the feet in mountaineering, fingers threading a needle, the action of painting and I wrote about the voice in singing.  Then we read them out and offered feedback to each other.

During the course of the day we looked at three poems - Temptation by Nina Cassian, Excerpts From The Body's Sura (I forget the poet, sorry) and The Spirit is to Blunt an Instrument by Anne Stevenson.  All  these describe the body and it's function using different sorts of language.  One of our exercises was to try and write a praise poem in high language about one part of the body.  I was functioning on low battery by now as I'd had a really bad night with no more than about an hours sleep.  Ideas were getting harder to find but I chose the eye and managed about seven lines.  The last exercise was a real struggle and I'm not sure if I really understood what I was supposed to be writing but this time I chose the ear but I couldn't find a way into it (no pun intended!).  I wanted to find out about the function and names of the different parts of the other words I wanted to research it because that's how I work.  I knew some of the technical terms but I didn't want to write something that didn't make sense until I could find out.  I ended up with two very boring lines and spent the rest of the time doodling - and no it wasn't an ear!

So, I've come away with four potential poems to work with and met some lovely people. It was good to get feedback on what I had written, to know I have some lines appreciated by others.  The two other ladies wrote so well.  How they managed to produce such work in fifteen minutes amazed me.  It takes me a long time to get the initial spark and often it doesn't arrive until the 15 minutes are nearly up!  I find it very hard to think on the spot and end up with ideas and couple of lines where some have written four verses.  How do they do that?  The two men were very different but the younger one seemed very like me - he needs a long time to ponder.  I felt we were allies and we also seemed to share the difficulty in analysing others poetry.  We travelled back on the rail replacement bus (or yes, one of those days!) which allowed us a better chat and we indeed have a lot in common, though he memorises all his poetry to perform and he tells me he writes long poems, it just takes him months to write because he ponders over each word and sentence  until he is happy before he moves on.  It's always interesting to hear how others write.

That will be the last poetry workshop or poetry course I can attend now for some time as in January I am going to two classes in art history.  I shall still be writing but my time will be limited until after Easter while I self indulge the arty side of myself......but there may be some poetry in there as one of the classes is about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (my speciality) and of course William Morris and Rossetti  both wrote poetry!

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