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No Rules: Poetry Workshop – 21 September

It was the first workshop of the season and Alison wasted no time in reminding us that not only were we there to write, but that we would all come away from the evening with at least one seed of a poetic idea.

There are no rules in writing poetry, she assured us, apart from not leaving the workshop with an empty page.

While some in the room had a practiced hand in this genre, there were many for whom the very idea of the task was more than a little daunting. But despite their apprehensions, it was not long until a hush of concentration had descended and coloured pens scratched out their hearts on crisp white sheets.

We were broken-in gently. The first task was a free writing exercise, in which all that was required of us was to write, without hesitation, for five minutes on the theme of ‘my small furnished room’. Alison explained that the point was to let the ink follow your thoughts, to allow whatever ideas and associations wandering your way, to be captured on the paper. If we found ourselves stuck, we were to write anything at all rather than stop writing.

Without much conscious effort, this activity loosens up the mind, rattles the gates to our subconscious, hopefully pushing them open just enough to free our well-guarded truths – the basis (in my view) of most interesting writing.

Having broken our writing fasts, the mood relaxed and we were ready to forge ahead. Alison whetted our poetic appetites by reading four poems, demonstrating a range of styles and subject matter, illustrating gently that poems can be written about anything and in any way.

In the next task, envelopes were distributed to each table, containing around thirty slips of paper on which were printed random words or phrases. Font and print size varied creating a jumbled patchwork of ideas. Individually we considered the words, noting down those we liked, those that got us thinking, that for some reason we were drawn to. From these words, we each constructed our own banks of associated ideas and images, words that in someway attached themselves to those we had selected. It was up to each writer to follow his or her own inclinations. We were encouraged to use different colours of ink to mark the journey from prompts to our personal development of ideas and then again to forge links between these as we saw fit.

Now faced with pages of words, phrases and emotions, we drew from them whatever theme our meanderings had exposed and pulled them together to say something we wanted to say – poetry.

Once the pens had been laid to rest, we listened to the words of those happy to share their efforts.

It was, as ever, a wonderful workshop by Alison Craig, whose skill, encouragement and enthusiasm energised the entire group. And for those unable to attend last night and wanting to try your hand at poetry, the beauty of this workshop is that you can do it all at home, just follow Alison’s steps as outlined above and remember the golden rule – write something.

Dorothy Gallagher

One comment

  1. Carolyn O'Hara

    Sounds like another inspiring night – think I’ll have a go!
    Thanks, Dorothy, for an interesting blog.

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