I was recently lucky enough to provide a poetry inspired writing workshop for a young writer's group at one of our local libraries. Some brilliant work came out of it, so I thought I'd share the workshop with you, to spread the joy of a bit of inspiration.
I was thinking about time. FYI Salomé (which is currently on hiatus due to illness) is hoping to have a theme of 'time' for its Spring issue. Check out this link to their submissions page to see when they're back up and running.
I was also thinking about our communications with ourselves at different times of our lives, the 'if I'd known then what I know now' moments. In poems, these can take the form of advice to our perhaps younger selves, statements of intent about how we will behave in the future, or observations of people at a particular stage of life to share some kind of truth about it. I shared a few poems with the young writers group to give examples, making sure we had time to chat about the poems - not to take them apart in depth with meter and rhyme and all that, but to talk about how they spoke to us, or didn't, and what we liked in them.
I had to share the wonderful, crazily well known poem by Jenny Joseph, best known by its first line, 'When I am old I shall wear purple...' - Warning. Here is its, read by the poet herself. She'll be sadly missed.
I also shared Kathleen Jamie's poem Old Women from The Bonniest Companie (Picador). It has been shared on Dave Poems here (it starts 'Thon tree', if you're scanning through for it). I love that start. The word thon - meaning far over there (a bit like yonder), is one I hardly come across any more, but it would be such a shame to lose it, plus I'm obsessed with trees, anyway, the poem is about spring and burdens and not losing hope, and it's about the carrying of life that women do, and it's really rather fantastic. The young writers didn't think so. Perhaps you need to be nearer the tree to make it out.
They did enjoy the fantastic poem Giraffe, from the new collection of the same name by Bryony Littlefair, published by Seren Books (buy it here), and the winner of this year's (2018) Myslexia poetry pamphlet prize. It first appeared in a magazine that I love called Popshot. See it here. It's an amazing poem, which Popshot describes as being about recovery from mental illness, which it is, I suppose, but to me it spoke of adolescence, a hideous experience for me which I wouldn't wish on anybody, and I feel for any poor soul going through it, as well as those they live with! I love the specificity of the poem, and the little details, like the plastic spoon, because they're important when you are able to finally look around you and get your head out of the horrible cloud.
The young writers were really nice about my poem, 'I am not yours,' which was originally published on The Fat Damsel. Find it there (first poem on the page, under the pictures). It imagines me meeting up with an ex-lover at a time after the hatred has gone and time has moved on and I haven't even thought about him until there he is, and it's weird that our time has gone. I was delighted that one of the young writers said the poem spoke to her and made her feel more optimistic about mending.
Anyway, enough reading, time for some writing. I asked the young writers to think of an epistolary (like a letter) poem for their older selves. I was thinking that I'm constantly hearing advice about enjoying this moment from older people and it can get annoying, perhaps instead young people might have some useful advice that could go the other way.
The young writers shared what they wrote in the group, but didn't want to share it externally, which is understandable, considering it's just the beginning of something, but it's a shame because their words were inspirational, intelligent and beautifully moving.
If you fancy giving it a go yourself fetch your writing gubbins and get ready to write. Use a clock or a timer and give yourself just five minutes. You can always go back to it later. For now, just GO!
...tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock...
What you write might be brilliant. It might be rubbish, but there might be little wonders in it. If you're lucky enough to have a supportive group like the young writers, share what you've written with them, they'll help you to spot what's good. If you can't see anything good then put it away and go back to it when you're having a more positive day/week/year because you do have good stuff in you, it's just sometimes hard to spot.
If you feel brave enough, share some/all of what you've written in the comments. I'd love to see what you come up with.