Poetry workshop

Although I write prose, novels and stories, articles and blogs, I’m interested in any form of writing and have recently begun to try a little poetry again. This was what I mainly write when I was young. So when I saw a poetry workshop was taking place, from the poet Luke Wright I jumped at the chance.

There were about a dozen of us and after a little introduction we got straight to work. A random sentence was taken from a book Luke was reading, which began ‘I took up residence in…’ We had a time limit so there wasn’t much time to think, but for some reason my mind wandered to my great grandfather who was born and brought up in Tasmania. He was born in a small house in the new town of Hobart, and then when he was about ten, the family moved up the hill out of town and settled in a magnificent residence called Boa Vista. The only thing still existing is the gate house. We visited two years ago, an as I stepped off the plane in Hobart I was assailed by such a familiar smell… I’d never been there before but it smelt like coming home… strange!

I took up residence in a distant place.
No other place could be
more so;
A distant place, another time.

With different eyes
I saw my home upon the hill.
Down by the harbour
I saw my father’s ship,
The Henrietta,
Take to the waves
and depart for ever.

That was a dream.
But when, in reality,
I travelled
To that distant place,
When I breathed that air
– I took that breath,
Then, I knew…

That is a very, very, very rough draft and there are bits missing but it’s a start!

The next exercise was using a poem by Joe Dunthorne called ‘Alchemy’. It started with an image of lead and by the end the final image was gold. It was written in an interesting way, almost like a list of different linked items  We were invited to write something similar – beginning with a copper kettle… This is my effort (I can’t escape a narrative!)

A copper kettle
… is a hurler’s wight
… is a granite crag
… is a funeral slab
… is untimely death
… is a forgotten wife
… is a dangerous beast
… is a darkened shippon
… is a farmhouse kitchen
… is a slice of cake
… is china pot
… is a cup of tea

My last image connects to the first image – the kettle pours the water into the china pot, the tea in the cup is copper coloured like the kettle. I don’t know if I did as I was supposed to, but it was an interesting way of playing with language.

I failed utterly at the third exercise based on a poem by Simon Armitage, our new Poet Laureate, which described a man in an unusual way… I just couldn’t get to grips with it at all, and although I did have a go and played around with the words I had, I just couldn’t make anything worth while, although it started ‘He was a dark shark, and his hair was an oil slick, and his eyes were just ice-bergs…’  I might try and play with it some more, unconstrained by trying to emulate Armitage.

The last piece, though far, far, far from finished was quite fun. We had to something only using one vowel – although obviously we could use all the consonants! Writing in this way is called euonia, and Luke mentioned a writer, Christian Bök. Again it was fun and interesting, but I don’t think it is anything I will ever attempt to do again!

The letter I was given was ‘i’, and although I what I managed to pull together in twenty minutes isn’t very worthy, I will share it with you. Again, I had a sort of narrative; I imagined a being called Tim who could fly and particularly loved flying above the sea.

Here is my very rough and ready Song of Tim:

Hi! I’m Tim, I fly high by night
I slip my binding,
I sight my light<
right my wings,
I sing, I sing,
I fly

Hi! I’m Tim, I fly with silk wings
Diving in milk-mist
Sighing in ink-night
Sly swimming in spin-drift.

Hi! I’m Tim, flying in lightning sky
Finding my right wind
Fighting mists whirling
Righting my wind wing.

Hi! I’m Tim. I fly high by night.

Reading it now it seems to have echoes of Gerard Manley Hopkins but that wasn’t intended at all!

It was an interesting afternoon, and it will be interesting to see if any of what I’ve learned and practised finds its way into my writing.

Here’s a link to Luke’s page:



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