the importance of writing workshops : 7.02.18

Yesterday, I attended a writing workshop organised by my university. Jill Dawson, the author of ten novels, and winner of a variety of awards, came in to run a workshop lasting an hour and a half. The title of the workshop was ‘A Sense of Place’.

Jill talked the attenders through how she builds a sense of place, reading from her notes of visiting Patricia Highsmith’s cottage in Suffolk and the subsequent opening of her novel, ‘The Crime Writer’. She demonstrated how every detail of her first impression was important to the first draft, and the final product. The main piece of advice I took from Jill’s workshop:

Put your body in the place you are trying to describe.

This can be taken literally, or metaphorically. Taking a breather from writing the words and thinking your body into a place allows the words to come in a more organic manner. It is something that is easily forgotten in the act of writing. I, for one, tend to get bogged down in describing setting (or indeed anything else) in an interesting, unique way – I focus on it, excessively, and then the description loses all life. What I forget about is the rawness of physical or emotional feeling. In reality, if I take Jill’s advice, I might come up with something like this when thinking of my childhood home:

 

dog summer

carpet freshness tiles in the kitchen

and two blue sofas

 

It doesn’t make any sense, it lacks a narrative or direction, but for me it is the most accurate, concise description I could get of my childhood home. These 12 words hold more the sense of place I was trying to convey than the rest of the A4 page. Picking out these small essential fragments was another thing that Jill endorsed. The ability to recognize the gold dust among the waffle in your own writing is a skill that needs to be learnt.

The other piece of advice I took from Jill Dawson’s talk was avoiding clichĂ©. It sounds simple. It’s something every writer wants to avoid, but sometimes it takes the physical act of ‘throwing out’ all of the words that instantly appear when thinking of an object or place. For example, when writing about a piece of honeycomb, forget: honeycomb, bees, honey, hive, yellow.

Here’s an extract of what I came up with after abandoning those words:

 

caramel brown architextured

sweet and square

shaped carefully by tiny

fingerless

hands

 

 

And this is the importance of writing workshop. The advice or guidance given could be entirely new, it could be something you’ve heard a million times before. But in that hour or two hour slot, it could make all the difference. Jill Dawson said that the only tool the writer has is language itself. That’s a pretty big tool, which every writer will handle differently. Writing workshops encourage you to pick up language in a way that is different to how you wielded it in your last writing session. And this is the key to honing you craft.

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words & verses : 25.1.18

my thoughts on the words & verses event hosted by get on the soapbox

Hosted by Get on the Soapbox, Words & Verses is a monthly poetry event at The Spread Eagle pub in Ipswich. With free entry and the promise that ‘All words are welcome’, live performances from booked acts and open mic slots, the night is guaranteed to please any wordsmith or enthusiast. It takes place on the 4th Thursday of the month, 7:30pm.

In my true untimely nature, this posts comes ten days after the event which was enough time for my phone to give out and for me to lose all the photos of the night. So I guess that’s even more reason why you should come along next time, so you can appreciate the stage decor in its true glory, and the beautiful faces of various poets sharing their thoughts with you.

The night is divided up into segments, with around 4 booked acts that have 10-15 minutes each, and open mic slots at 5 minutes each. I had a slot on the open mic, and found that the audience were as warm, welcoming and attentive as always for Soapbox poetry gigs.

The performers this month were Ang, Jess Kemp, Hazel Thomas and Thomas Swarman.

Ang performed wonderfully thoughtful rhymes, pushing through stage nerves and delivering pulsing, rhythmic beats. Her rap performance was a great opener that promised energy and excitement for the rest of the night.

Jess Kemp, who I’ve seen before at Maui Waui Festival 2017 among other poetry gigs, graced us with her funky feminist words, and comedic commentary on sexual practices. A lively, energetic performer, educational (a lovely diagram of the vulva was on display, with a sparkly gem to mark the clitoris), and down right hilarious – simply a joy to see and hear as always.

Hazel Thomas brought poignant, soft and sensitive poetry to the table. Her attention grabbing intricate lines were wonderfully beautiful. I had seen Hazel perform once before, and I was very pleased when I heard that she’d be on the bill.

Thomas Swarman performed a hard-hitting mix of rap and spoken word, tackling difficult issues and bringing them to the forefront.

The selection of poets and performers on the open mic were an eclectic mix of themes, styles and poems. What really stuck with me was the recurring theme of homelessness – empathy for the homeless, the recognition that it can happen to anyone and the failing societal system that is in place to supposedly help. This is one of the things I love most about poetry events, and indeed poetry as a whole. It forces the listener or reader to consider the deep thoughts and emotions of others – while the audience may connect their own experiences to it, it also makes us consider the problems other people face. It encourages us to be a little less self centered, to think of ourselves as in someone else’s shoes for a couple of minutes. And that, is very, very important.

Thank you to Get on the Soapbox for organizing such a fantastic evening, as well as all of the poets for making the night so unique and special. See you all at the next one, right?

 

this is the poetry box

This is the poetry box.

A blog about my poetry, other people’s poetry, poetry events, writing poetry, reading poetry, and anything else that I can think of that fits the theme ‘POETRY’.

I’ve been writing poetry for a number of years now. I’ve dipped into fiction, I like writing fantasy stories. I like reading novels. But poetry has really stuck with me.

I’ve performed at various festivals in Suffolk and Norfolk – Folk East, Harlequin, Wild Tree Fair, and Jimmy’s Farm Festival to name a few. I’ve performed in pubs, too. I like pubs. In the sidebar under ‘upcoming events’ you’ll be able to see the poetry events I’m going to, and ones I’m performing at. If you see me, say hello. I’m not very scary.

If you’d like to see more of what I do, here’s a video of me performing at The Birdcage in Norwich.

And here’s a video of a song that was made by The Decibel Kid, which used some words recorded of a recording of my poem, ‘Astronomy’. I’m also in the video.