Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Ness Book Fest Poetry

The event was a poetry workshop, part of the Ness Book Fest and celebrating all things books and some things Burns. I had almost persuaded myself to give it a miss but poetry and I just can’t keep our distance. We stalk each other through books and workshops.

The venue was Leakey’s bookshop. A second hand bookshop housed in a de-commissioned church, shelves from top to bottom and piles of books not yet assigned a space cluttering the floor – a perfect place for a penning poems. Upstairs used to be a cafĂ© that served obscure versions of soup. There are a couple of sofas, and a circle of chairs.

I had sorted out my hearing aids and thought they were in the bag. It turned out that I had left them in the front room. It’s always a bad move to forget the hearing aids. I sat as close as possible to the tutor - a friend of mine who works harder than I do at her poetry, who submits things to magazines and wins prizes. A teacher, she knew how to talk loudly. The various writers in the circle of chairs were not so loud. Maybe there’s a thing that when you read poetry and it’s not something you really do often, and you are not so confident of what you’ve written that you speak softly. Only the man sitting opposite me was loud enough for me to hear.

The warming up exercises were 60 second blasts with a title for a prompt. It was important to write for every second and not lose yourself in too much thinking.

The Special Occasion

Hitting sixty this year.  I try to tell myself I’m happy to slide into seniority quietly, but deep down I want a party. I would rather not have to dress up but…

I really am hitting sixty. My husband talked about arranging a party. Not him exactly, but one of my sisters. And for the party to be down in their neck of the woods so they have no excuse not to come.
We thought about flights rather than driving down but with all the birthday presents we might need the boot of the car to take things home. I thought about a money only rule for practical reasons but I like wrapping paper and bows.

The second warm up made use of post its. The small green stripy one was for listing six everyday objects like cushions and carpets. The larger orange stripy one was for definitions of the objects, not detailed but just a phrase or a short sentence. We passed the definitions sheets around the circle to see if we could match up someone else’s definition to one of our objects.

My “letter” matched quite sensibly with someone else’s “means of communication” and a more creative link with “method of shutting a door”. I have written more than my fair share of letters which did damage to relationships. Saying it as it is, without an ounce of grace – I used to be an expert. I have softened over the years.

My favourite connection was my “carpet” fitting perfectly with someone else’s “transport for some people.” It conjured up all sorts of adventures.

The main part of the workshop was, of course, writing a poem. If you could imagine someone you know as a book what kind of a book would they be? Who would be listed in the acknowledgments page? What would be in the contents page? Would there be footnotes? What kind of cover would there be? What kind of pages? The font?

I’d like to say that I can’t believe her poem, my tutor friend’s poem, wasn’t one of the Blue Peter “here’s one I made earlier” things. But it wasn’t. She had the same title as us, the same list of things to think about and the same amount of time to write it as the rest of us. This is where her hard work and submitting things to poetry competitions and winning all came into being. She had written a wonderful poem about her mother-in-law. It was so full of rich pictures of this woman – perhaps a little intimidatingly competent.

Here’s mine. No prizes for guessing who it is. The first couple of lines give the identity away.

A book made in Glasgow
Not far from Parkhead
Yearns to be handled
To be held, to be read
The faint whiff of curry
Touches each page
There’s snippets of history
From birth to old age
The paper looks fragile
But really it’s strong
The stories look short
But really they’re long

And that was it. My time in the carpark the other side of the alley was all used up. I felt like Cinderella leaving the ball early.

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