Monday, November 3, 2008


On Saturday I went to a poetry workshop in Tauranga, led by Tim Upperton of Massey University. It was fun, I had good company for the drive over and back, Tim was great, and I came home with that "Yes!!" feeling. But still, since then I have written nothing but the odd email.

I have done workshops before and each time the same thing happens. We are given writing exercises to do, and I do them. Sometimes what I write is crap, other times it is the start of something good. But I do actually write.

Back home, I have piles of writing exercises accumulated from workshops, and also in a number of books, but when I sit and look at them, I read through them, can't decide which one to try, and just can't seem to do it. What is the difference between being at home with writing exercises, and being in a workshop? I don't know but I do know that I want to keep trying - "must try harder" as my old report cards used to say (alongside "talks too much.")

Not that the following is anywhere near good poetry, but considering it was done in two goes, the first for 5 minutes, and the second 3 minutes, I can't help but think I could do well if I just spent time everyday doing exercises and serious writing, crafting and recrafting.

The exercise involved each participant offering a concrete noun (there were 15 of us.) We then had to chose at least ten and write something including those words. My choices were: chain, praying mantis, poem, calabash, clock, flower bud, bottle, handbag, anchor, gold - and this is what I came up with:

On those slipping sideways days when I find
a praying mantis in a green glass bottle
a grief-filled poem in a calabash
a fresh pink flower bud in the bottom of my handbag

On those days
the anchor at the end
of its gold filligree chain
fails to hold the clock
to its timetable.

Not exactly Keats or Elliot, but not bad for eight minutes with ten crazy mixed up words!

Now all I have to do is find the discipline to set aside half an hour or even just 8 minutes every day and maybe I can come up with some good writing!


Anonymous said...

I like that poem. For some reason I'd like it more without "grief-filled". "Grief" picks up the vowel sound from "green" and throws both lines into more extreme emotional territory... and because it's a grief-filled *poem* the rest of the poem gets draggeda long too... and it isn't a poem that wants to breathe such rarified air.

That's the 30 second analysis of the response; maybe it's nonsense and I just dislike the word "grief". Don't know! But the response was quite a definite one: like the poem, dislike that phrase.

If you write in workshops and tend not to write the rest of the time, possibly a regular writers' group would suit you? - that's assuming you want some mechanism to tip you over into writing more often. Most of the writing advice I've ever read boils down to this: "a writer is someone who writes".

Cally said...

Thanks for the comments. As I said, this was just a 5 minute exercise - but funnily enough, I absolutely agree with you - That "grief-filled' bit was the bit I disliked most but couldn't think of anything else once it had popped into my mind!

I have heard that phrase - "a writer is someone who writes" - and sometimes think I should write it on lots of large sheets of paper and pin them up all over the house!