I love poetry workshops where you do quirky little exercises and allow writing to be as free as play once was. I was completely hooked today from the moment where Jean Binta Breeze asked us to draw around our hand on a page. The workshop was on 'Identity' and there we were - with an emblem of something so uniquely and solidly ourselves. This hand became our 'island' and we began to name its oceans and straits, its bays and inlets, its peaks and cliffs and the long meandering 'life-line' road that straddled its palm. In no time, we had our maps and marking a cross, began to trace a journey around this island-self. By the end of the first hour, we were sharing a dozen 'map-poems', negotiating the Cliffs of No-Eating, the Troubled Straits, the Inside-Out Road. I was astonished by the variety of images, witty, dark and surreal, from our varied Pilgrims' Progresses. My map-poem began:
'Backstreet Point has walls black as the berries
that hang-over from the elder tree,
rooted and glittering in the field where things
get lost and forbidden ...'
And then we were down to the main business - to let ourselves be inspired by the multiple pieces making up The NHS Open Art Show in Leicester's City Gallery. Jean invited to find one face amongst the many and let it speak to us. I chose a montage piece called 'Identity 9615 13395165'. This played on ideas of identity-tagging with snippets of forms pasted over family photographs and a black mounting cut to suggest an overlaid bar-code. It was a clever and suggestive piece and this is one verse it inspired:
lifted bravely to the light;
lamplight in the parlour
cut by the bar-code,
spliced by faltering
neuronal narratives ...'
It's hoped that some of the poems we produced in this workshop will appear with the exhibition as it tours The Hinckley Ten 2 Gallery, Victoria Hall (Oakham) and Charnwood Museum (Loughborough). So you might look out for this striking piece amongst others. The workshop was free, organised by the lovely Lydia Towsey of BrightSparks , and Jean did a great job of steering us through. And now I'm away to edit up my two brand new poems!
Writing is a journey, both imaginary and physical. My first book took me to the Arctic to 'catch the colours' of the Northern Lights. Then I hunkered down to catch the wind-blown voices of polar explorers on Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition. More recently I'm obsessed by space: the race, the rockets, the final frontier.
Hear a BBC Radio Leicester interview about my space poetry at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wfpyp
Explore my digital narrrative PHILAE'S BOOK OF HOURS, published by the European Space Agency, at:
My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:
Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:
- Leicester, East Midlands
- As a storyteller, my work crosses boundaries of myth, science, history and spoken word. It has been presented in the British Science Museum, Ledbury Poetry Festival, National Space Centre and the European Space Agency website. In 2014 I ran a digital residency on WW1 for 14-18NOW and Writing East Midlands. I teach Creative Writing at De Montfort University and have experience of leading school events, workshop tuition and mentoring.