A room with twelve skeletons; skulls all facing the same way. A bony choir: but what songs will they sing us? Songs from long ago – and songs of struggle, murder and conflict. Through poetry, flash fiction and discussion we’ll be inspired by craniums, tibias and mandibles, exploring what we feel in our bones. All skeletons have a tale to tell – what’s yours?I’m running a young people’s workshop for young people aged 14-17 years at M Shed Bristol on 2nd August, exploring their Skeletons: Our Buried Bones exhibition…
It’ll be a rich & strange day, where I’ll be inviting the group to really get to know the bones on display and what they might think about all this, as well as thinking about our very own skeletons – we’ve all got one. Details above: please pass them on…
I’ve just finished facilitating four sessions, working with Wyldwood Arts – a group of 18-25 year olds from the Bristol Old Vic young producers worked with residents of Monica Wills House writing around the themes of Earth, Water, Fire and Air.
There was a lot of laughter and some really beautiful, playful and moving pieces of writing – and Wyldwood have made a wonderful short film which captures some of this. Here it is!
In February 2017, I’ll be running a seven-week creative writing course at M Shed Museum, Bristol harbourside.
Here’s a little film I made to tell you more about it:
And if you’d like to book, go to the WEA website here.
There’s info about the M Shed on its website here too.
See you there!
Last week in my group with Off The Record, we looked at Andrew McMillan’s poem ‘TODAY’ from his great collection Physical (which you should buy too)…
Having read and reflected on it, we then thought about a space we know really well – and let our mind’s eye (‘floating camera’, as it were) loose around the space, writing about it (as McMillan’s poem does) in direct address (‘you’) and future tense (‘you will…’).
I thought I’d share my piece of writing that came from this exercise – it’s fascinating how changing tense and first/second/third person can affect the way one writes.
Perhaps inevitably, echoes of McMillan’s poem entered all the pieces of writing – so this is absolutely an exercise, response, and poem inspired by – and not something I’ll be taking ‘credit’ for as an original approach! (So thanks, Andrew, for the great poem and inspiration.)
– after Andrew McMillan
Today, you’ll step from the door
and into some chewing gum
the seagulls will serenade
the pigeons; the weather-
vanes will all point West.
Today you’ll see that all of the bricks
are spelt the same, that everyone’s faces
rhyme.. You’ll regret going to bed
so late, but you’ll do it again.
Today the binmen will curse
the randomness of the Lane, saying
They think glass is plastic and cardboard is clothing
and you’ll drink coffee as the break
lights glare at you.
Today the waiters of the Grand Hotel
will polish cutlery and their wit
the man with gnarly fingers
who collects the bridge toll
will run out of change and meet
his future wife as he seeks 50p’s
at the Crepe Affaire stall.
The Bristol Queen…
I’ve been travelling to Weston-super-Mare the last couple of weeks to run a course – and have noticed a boat on blocks, in a car park near the train station…
It’s this one – The Bristol Queen…And there was something about it being there among all those cars that was so incongruous, I thought it deserved a sonnet.
So that’s what I’m writing today, though it’s one I’m going to keep back for potential polishing…
Just as The Queen herself seems to need quite a lot of polishing (having been taken out for refurbishment over two years ago!)
A zoo sign from Bristol Zoo – and a wonderful artistic intervention.
Something from today, for yesterday…I ran a group today and we worked on the theme of animals – involving writing kennings and also some information signs for The Great Zoo – inspired by Cuban poet Nicholas Guillen.
The idea is that you can put anything into an enclosure in the zoo – and I think this is a really helpful way of getting people to consider and externalise things about oneself, or things that you might find interesting about the world…
So here’s what I wrote (and there were a few different species of this written about by different group members!):
In this enclosure, you’ll find Ideas.
They’re social creatures, living
in great communal burrows
in the mind. Sometimes,
you’ll see an Idea break off
from the hive and start
to grow, inflating to around
five times the size of the others.
This Idea will either go off
to start a new colony, or
the transition will be too much
and it will pop.
Ideas generally eat smaller creatures
such as Hunches or Notions, though
they have been known
And a bonus Kennings poem – see if you can guess what the animal is! We actually did this as a secretive riddle/quiz during the session, which made it more gamified and fun 🙂
I Am A
What Am I?
Very long lines was today’s prompt from NaPoWriMo – I’m not sure mine are quite long enough, but I don’t have much time today – and have written something…Here it is!
That ridiculous tele, the size of it, spreading at the edges
of the Panasonic black.; it got so big it wasn’t cinema
it was more than a window, a wall even. It spread out so far
it encompassed the whole of the town, even though
you couldn’t usually see it all from that house. It got so big
that it could see itself from space showing Ultra HD footage
of the Great Wall of China and the plastic islands of the Atlantic
and Pacific. When it showed nature doco’s the tele was so big
it made the Blue Whale seem like a minnow, the Sun
like an energy-saving lightbulb. But that tele was still
too small. It never showed enough. So we wait, wait, wait
for the upgrade.
There was something I really wanted to write for a submission this week – so I duly have (and am treating it as my daily poem – though maybe I’ll write another later)…
It’s for the Show of Strength event ‘View from the Pen’ at Windmill Hill City Farm (just across the road from us here at BV Studios)…Where they’ll be choosing pieces of writing for actors to perform, in the animal’s pens – as the animals.
I’m not going to say which animal mine is, in case it gets selected, but if it doesn’t – then I’ll post it up here at a later date.
But fingers/claws/hooves/paws crossed it might end up coming to life in the City Farm, which would be tremendous fun.
And so I’m up to date, with two ekphrastic poems…
This second one inspired by the above painting, itself inspired by this Keats poem of the same name, which means, ‘The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy’.
My poem is entitled The Beautiful Lady With or, Horrid Warning – and allows the lady without mercy her right to reply. She doesn’t mess about.
(I’m afraid I keeping this one too as it’s bawdy and fun, so should be sent out to appropriately-bawdy competitions/journals.)
A quick and very-first-draft one today (which may remain so) – written in response to a prompt in Helena Nelson’s book How (not) To Get Your Poetry Published.
I won’t share what the (clever) prompt is, because you’ll have to buy the book too 😉
We meet somewhere outside, somewhere not-an-office and drink
fancy coffees. She (for they are unlikely to be ‘male’) will ask
difficult questions, smilingly – a disagreeable helper –
challenging my choices, to move the work on.
We will talk not only about the words, but also the style,
the paper, the print, it will be a complete
aesthetic consideration. There will be laughter, some
of it lewd, but the focus will always return.
She will be older than me, perhaps five to ten years,
able to say difficult things in a way I trust.
I will seek her advice, largely accept it,
until I find confidence in my own.