Yesterday, for the first time since the Arvon course I went on in August, I spent several hours immersed in poetry. And it was great. Hopefully it’s helped me find my poetry head again… we shall see.
Beware workshops, for they lead to philosophical thoughts
In the afternoon I attended the first part of a workshop run by Nottingham Poetry Society and led by Jacqueline Gabbitas. Storming stuff, and if I hadn’t had to leave
after 90 minutes I certainly wouldn’t have done. The exercise we started with involved mind-mapping from a word we
wouldn’t normally have considered using, taking some of the more tenuously linked ideas and trying to write something from them. I ended up delving into the depths of my feelings about ‘supplement’, which to me has connotations of ruthless con-artists selling fake remedies to gullible and vulnerable people… so unlike most of the other workshop members I focused in on one thing rather than casting my net wide. I did quite like the writing that came out of it though:
twist themselves into tinsel
braids, making magpies
of mothers and dieters
and new age believers
saying there must be something
to it, more or less
but less is more
so keep your supplements
your extras, your shiny pills
I have enough nonsense
rattling inside me already
As we all read our writing, I noticed that the most powerful images seemed to be negative ones – what is missing, what is not there, what will never be there, things not said or done. This is something Eireann Lorsung put me onto in the last Nottingham Poetry Series workshop, sort of, when she talked to us
about making space within poems. To me, this means lots of things, but among them it means creating a framework with words that allows the reader to climb inside, search around and fill that space with whatever the words pull from their heads. It’s a weirdly intimate thing, reading a poem. You allow the poet to plant hooks in your soul (for want of a better word) and lead you around the world they’ve created, but at the same time you delve into their soul, and by the time you’ve read the poem a few times the boundaries between you have been blurred somehow. That’s one of the secrets of poetry.
I’m told the workshop just got better and better, and over-ran by a considerable amount. So, why did I have to leave? Well…
Nottingham Lyric Lounge
Lyric Lounge is an East Midlands performance poetry festival coordinated by Writing East Midlands that invades Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Loughborough for a weekend each. Local poets work with local youth groups to develop performances for each event, and local and national poets come along and perform their work. The lovely Aly Stoneman had been working with young mothers at the YWCA on the theme of childhood and motherhood, and they’d written some really touching words using artefacts from bygone childhoods as prompts. Nicola, one of the mothers, also wrote a lovely poem for her daughter Louise, which was simple but so heartfelt it almost made me cry. Aly read us a few of her poems, followed by more poetry from Anne Holloway, which brought back memories of times when my kids weren’t looming over me in a gangly teenage way… yes, I remember when a stick could be anything! To finish, Aly hosted an open mic, where Michelle ‘Mother’ Hubbard, me, Eireann, Carol Rowntree Jones and Cathy Grindrod read a poem or two each about childhood and motherhood. It was a lovely relaxing session full of beautiful thoughts and words.
Shortly afterwards, the YARD theatre group with Andrew ‘MulletProofPoet’ Graves and Deborah ‘Debris’ Stevenson gave a stunning performance of poetry they’d been working on, using a theme of ‘Old and New’. I was absolutely bowled over by the inventiveness and enthusiasm of the youngsters in the theatre group, whose ages varied from about 9 to 18. They’d written incisive exciting poetry, and they performed it with skill and maturity that blew the audience away. I know of at least one person whose husband turned up soon after it started to pick her up, but she refused to leave until the performance was over… Deborah and Andrew somehow managed to follow the YARD group’s performances (not something I’d have felt at all confident doing!) with stunning sets of their own. I’ve known them both for a couple of years now, and it’s been brilliant to see their careers developing – there is no doubt that they will set the performance poetry world alight in their own ways.
James Walker has written a great review of these two sessions for Left Lion, so I won’t go into much more detail here. I’ll just say that I came away with more going on in my head than there has been for a long time. Which, in case you were wondering, is a Good Thing.