I attended a poetry workshop recently, alongside fellow writers, facilitated by local poet and tutor, Felix Hodcroft – hosted by Scarborough Writers’ Circle, whose members will be celebrating National Poetry Day at their October session with poems stemming from the workshop on the theme of ‘environment’.
The theme immediately brings to mind topical global warming connotations and Felix encouraged us to think outside the box, outwit our own inner Policing system (censorship) and go beyond those connotations.
And so, for my end-of-month blog, I’m sharing with you the musings I wrote at the workshop to get my juices flowing as a warm-up to creating poetry. The content covers aspects of what’s been uppermost in my mind this melancholic month as I consider the theme of environment as being something a bit ‘off the wall’.
It begins with three 2-minute speed writing prompts to outwit the censor that is our own self:
1. What I Remember (choose a memory)
Trying hard not to think about the nights we lay under the silent, coal-black sky as diamonds dazzled our eyes and we made snow angels at midnight in a garden we called home. We held on to each other, breathing deep to keep warm, remembering how the blazing sun of daylight had penetrated our clothes, and burnt our skin. The snow is melting, drenching us with tears, we are drowning in fear because we dared to go out into the garden.
I’m scared of the water but it fascinates me and I want to jump into the ocean before it swallows me. My choice. Not a choice forced on me by the water’s quirky nature. I do want to see the sun again. Not the burning sun. No. The gentle sun-kissed summer holidays of childhood.
3. Where You Live
I’ve been clinging to the corner of the ceiling for so long that no-one notices I’m there now. Not even the damp odour I give off attracts attention. On the rare occasion that someone does spot me hovering, they scrub me all over with bleach… rubbing, rubbing, rubbing so hard to make me disappear but I am too strong. I’m here for life. I don’t know how I ended up here. It could have been the steamy windows that caused it.
Three phrases I liked from the read poems… words are not necessarily from the poems or in the correct order.
- Yet this stone still glistens after my hands have dropped it. It will never die and other hands will hold it as I do. (Similar to the ‘mould’ in previous note 3.)
- Another spring… moving in cycles… day and night… the water slides gently by us as we sit entranced.
- These things happen… suffering and the soul’s bliss blend together (LOVE THIS!)… the grass is wet with tears and the smell of roses in the night fills the air.
It all sounds connected somehow. It’s exciting when my own creativity flows freely from my subconscious and seems to connect to poems written by others. Automatic writing makes me feel so alive!
What is true and what we are told is true:
Environment: Questions and Uncertainties
I thought I had it sussed. This dying thing. I believe in God. It’s easy. I know where I’m going in the end. But, do I? Do I really? Truly? I watch my neighbours slip away meaninglessly, one by one, and long to ask them ‘what is so great about the direct cremation you chose for your ending?’ None of us can bow our heads, tip our cap, or whisper a prayer, as you whizz by our doors on your final journey. No one to mourn your passing in a rote fashion, with the passion of memories shared at a wake. We remain, for a while anyways, staring at the empty space you’ve left behind. It’s not enough time to grieve your loss. The next tenant will move in long before your dust has settled.
We talked of serendipity which led to each person choosing a word in quick succession. We were asked to include two of the words within the next sprint.
I dreamed of gushing water, rushing past the bus as I gazed down from the top deck. My sister was in the water, flailing arms and legs, fighting for her life. ‘Stop the bus. Now!’ I screamed at the deaf driver as he carried on speeding down the road unaware of his surroundings. I clambered down the stairs, two at a time, pressing the bell frantically at the bottom and screeched, ‘let me off! Now! My sister is dying.’ He opens the doors and I swim through turbulent ripples of blood-red water.
Hell! What is this? Where’s the serendipity I was promised?
All my words from the speed writing exercises are there on the page, waiting to be gathered together, played with, tossed back and forth, prodded and poked in order to come up with an 8-line poem about the environment.
I came up with a sad little something about a single drop of rain on a rose petal, fiddled with it for part of the allotted 15 minutes, and heard Felix say ‘escape from your chains’ so I looked at a different take on it ‘lock me away, love…’, I began. Then Felix said, ‘you can move bits around… lines… be aware of the ‘poetry rule’ by arriving late and leaving early.’
Edit your 8 lines thus:
Edit 1: Get rid of cliché, bring freshness, get rid of anything too decisive or dogmatic, have the attitude of show not tell, and use imagery well. Poetry makes you come face-to-face with your own fear/uncertainty, no need to preach, show the reader how difficult life is. Make the reader aware of something not fully explained, settled.
Edit 2: Is your poem the truth/or what you’ve been told is the truth? Your poem is YOUR beliefs and YOUR vision to the world.
Edit 3: Try taking out every alternate word. Reduce by a quarter. Am I telling what is already shown? Am I going on too long?
I fiddled around for what seemed an age and got as far as the first draft of 8 (very short) lines thus:
The blood moon moans
from tormented dreams
on a single rose
whose luscious leaves
hit the ground
without a sound.
No idea what it means but… it’s the product of a 2-hour workshop that I thoroughly enjoyed! As are my previous streams of consciousness on this blog, which will not be wasted. Writing is always a work in progress.
I’ll conclude by saying that another piece practically wrote itself that night as I was reading through my notes in search of something else. Serendipity? Maybe. The jury’s out on that one whilst my inner Policing censorship returns to the poem to investigate the necessity of editing.
With love for the journey,
2 thoughts on “Environment”
Thankyou so much Julie – for taking on board the challenges from my workshop, for giving such an excellent account of the workshop’s successive stages, for outwitting your internal censor, for writing such a fascinating and enigmatic poem and then for, unexpectedly, creating something else!
I’m often struck, both as facilitator and as participant in workshops, by an alchemy whereby, even if the exercises fail to produce precisely/fully what you were aiming at, if you respond with all your heart to them – allowing yourself to be freed up, challenged, prompted in new or random directions – you can find yourself triggered to a DIFFERENT breakthrough, a fresh perspective, ideas for editing an existing or creating a wholly different poem!
The workshop was a wonderful evening for me, keeping me on my toes as I tried to push a large group of very talented writers to go that extra mile, that new, exciting but slightly scary path!
Revelation! I think I get it!!! Nobody writes a poem quite like you. A one-off. Different to anyone else’s. You are a very talented lady. N x