Although Saturday 25th February was actually the second meetup of the year, it had a special inaugural quality of its own…..
During January, the PROJECT 2017 blog had filled up with so much inspiring and challenging material that for the first time we were able to structure the whole meetup day around the ongoing projects of the writers in the room. We are hoping to maintain this pattern for the remaining meetups of the year.
First up was the rich compendium of project writers’ thoughts about deciding which of their poems were most likely to achieve competition success. The list was compiled from group work in January and gave the February writers plenty of opportunity for discussion and food for thought.
We were able to apply these ideas to AMA BOLTON’S excellent poem, Fig, which had been highly commended last October in Torbay. Groups considered Fig as a successful competition entry and took the role of judges explaining the reasons for their choice. One of Fig’s most striking qualities was the poet’s fierce and forensic attention to her word choices. A piece of writing can only be as good as its weakest word is one of the main themes of this year’s meetups. Fig, in the judge’s and February group’s opinion, simply had no weak words.
CLAIRE DYER’S project is exploring the ways that words carry meanings below their literal surfaces and the ways in which meanings can come up from the deeps of the mind and heart. The conscious brain can sometimes be deaf to these subterranean messages so Claire introduced us to an anagram technique to free us from too much attention to the literal. The music and patterning of her poem Owls was a very effective example of allowing the words to lead a poem’s ‘meaning’ rather than the intended ‘meaning’ putting a straitjacket on a poem’s words. Owls appears on Claire’s Page on this blog.
It is only a short step from the idea that words can give us doorways into deeper meanings to SARAH GREGORY’S exploration of the effect of bringing words and images together on one page, giving neither one priority. Sarah brought seven specially made posters, each based on the same poem, but each combining the poem with a graphic image in a slightly different way. Sarah has written about the usefulness of the ensuing discussion on her Page.
MICHAEL LOVEDAY had already raised questions about the problems of truth-telling in autobiography. During the afternoon, we shared poems by several of the meetup writers for whom this was an issue and began to explore the boundaries between fact and fiction, straightforward personal narrative and revelation of the deeper self.
All the themes we explored in February will play an important part in the April meetup, when LESLEY SAUNDERS will be bringing us into the magical space of her work as a translator and sharing with us some of the detailed decisions a translator has to make. This close editing is crucial for every writer so we will all be both inspired and (probably) daunted by the experience of sharing Lesley’s work. There is a recent entry about this on Lesley’s Page on the blog.
Other excellent recent blog contributions to explore….
- new progress reports from Janet McClean, Marilyn Francis, Verona Bass, Ama Bolton and Ann Preston
- the new Page from Sara-Jane Arbury outlining her project to create a collection around her neurological condition, with 2 fantastic poems by Norman Macaig
- the new Page from singer/songwriter Miranda Pender
- our first musical Page from Graeme Ryan
- the new Page from writer/artist Paul Michael Browne who will be adding to our Words & Images exploration by introducing us to some of his work with film when we meet up in the BRLSI in June
- a new Page on successful Pamphlet Submissions first published by the Poetry Business
- 2 Max Ernst images to trigger experiments with Words & Images (on the Ekphrastic Page )
And, as RSThomas said, “That was only on one island”
We are still hoping to see personal Pages filling up with more project writers’ monthly Progress Reports, and more entries coming in for the Magazine Successes and Competition Placings, and for the upcoming Readings Page.
It will also be very good to have more Almanac entries month on month, in the manner perhaps of the January contribution from North Devon poet MARK HAWORTH-BOOTH. I have just added a new Page to the header list –ALMANAC – to which you are all invited to contribute a brief but brilliant seasonal piece of writing every month.
The April meetup is under construction at the moment. As well as Lesley Saunders’ translation project mentioned above, ROBIN THOMAS will be sharing his recent Eyewear pamphlet, A Fury of Yellow, which has already been reviewed by AMA BOLTON and SUE SIMS. We will also ( hopefully) be sharing off piste outcomes from the February meetup with some new ‘anagram’ pieces, some explorations with Words & Images, and pieces inspired by the Böcklin painting, Isle of the Dead, which RUTH SHARMAN posted for us on our Ekphrastic Page.
Happy Writing, Everyone!