Be more poetic

It’s the Weston Literary Festival again and there’s some excellent talks, workshops, sessions from local writers and poets. I was lucky enough to attend one event, a poetry workshop given by my very talented friend Macaque. Much as I love poetry, and much as I wrote a lot when I was younger, I have to admit, I am not very good at it, and to be frank, some of my poems are actually not very good. However, in a sense that doesn’t matter; if I have written something and made it the best i could, and worked on it to get it to a point where i could do no more, then I should be pleased – even if i don’t want to share it with anyone else.

Macaque’s workshop was practical; he introduced various ideas and then gave us exercises t try out those ideas. We kicked of with writing to seven points:

  • thinking of an animal
  • situate it in a place
  • situate it in a time – day/night
  • using metaphors describe three aspects of it
  • suggest the feelings of the animal
  • introduce an obstacle
  • ‘zoom out’ to an objective view (or subjective if it is my thoughts)

I had recently gone to Taunton museum and marvelled at the skeleton of a cave bear found not far from where I live, in the bone cave of Banwell. It inspires great awe in me as if it has almost magical powers, but could I get anything down on paper to describe it and my feelings?  No, I could not. I had an image of the bear sleeping i a cave then waking, uncurling from its slumber and rising to stretch in its huge magnificence. I imagined that humans who would have been contemporary to it would have been in great awe and fear, but at the same time would seek to kill it. The Banwell cave bear is dated to about 50,000 years ago, but people did not arrive in our lands until about 12,000 years ago – when we were still connected to continental Europe. So  in fact people and cave bears were not here together at the same time – except in my imagination!

Then we each had to think of two words which sprung to mind with the theme of war; between us we covered all that you might expect – and then we had to forget them and write a poem about war using none of them! Once again, I had an image and tried to make something of it, but again, a poor result. My image was of a lovely sunny day, but a battle in a village had just taken place, and a single soldier was walking away from me, through the ruined buildings and broken houses, doorless frames, windows with no glass hanging crazily, struts and beams stripped of brick, stone or tile, a low level mist of smoke and hung dust drifting. The soldier had taken off his jacket and was walking away from me, a weapon in one hand, but just hanging down as if he was just carrying it, not getting ready to fire – maybe it was empty. He wore braces over his khaki shirt, no helmet and a short military haircut… I think he was young. The poem never materialised in any recognisable form though!

Lastly a haiku, and at last I produced something. I’d been walking on the beach; it was very sunny and the light shone off mounds of seaweed left by the recent tide. The sun sparkled as if the weed was bejewelled or gilded. Her’s what I wrote:

Treasure on the strand;
mounds of sea-strewn weed

glisten, sat-crusted, sun-lit.

Here is a link to Macaque’s book, Palimsest of Ghosts, which I really, really recommend!!!


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