The Poetry of Prose Workshop

THERE IS NOTHING TO WRITING. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS SIT AT THE TYPEWRITER AND BLEED.

187097-425x425-corona-typewriter

 

 

THE RESULTS OF THE FEEDBACK LISTS FROM THE WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS SHOW THAT THE MOST POPULAR PASSAGE WAS NUMBER SIX, THE SECOND MOST POPULAR WAS NUMBER THREE, THE THIRD MOST POPULAR WAS NUMBER TWELVE AND THE FOURTH MOST POPULAR WAS NUMBER EIGHTEEN. Of these, numbers six, twelve and three were all someone’s FIRST CHOICE. 

I will now try to get the extracts from the four people who contributed them so that we can see them together on the blog.

PASSAGE SIX: I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills… from Karen Blixen : Out of Africa. Chosen by Nikki Kenna

I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the north, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet.  In the day-time you felt that you had got high up, near the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold. The geographical position and the height of the land combined to create a landscape that had not its like in all the world.  There was no fat on it and no luxuriance anywhere; it was Africa distilled up through six thousand feet, like the strong and refined essence of a continent.  The colours were dry and burnt, like the colours of pottery. The trees had a light delicate foliage, the structure of which was different from that of the trees in Europe; it did not grow in bows or cupolas, but in horizontal layers, and the formation gave to the tall solitary trees a likeness to the palms, or a heroic and romantic air like full-rigged ships with their sails furled, and to the edge of a wood a strange appearance as if the whole wood were faintly vibrating.

PASSAGE THREE : A sharp, cracking cold day, the air from the Upper East Side….

PASSAGE TWELVE : The Roches Noires, as far as I was able to discover…. from WG Sebald: The Emigrants

PASSAGE EIGHTEEN : He’s outside the sliding glass doors ……  from Ama Bolton: Sparks on St Valentine’s Day. Sent in by Ama Bolton 

He’s outside the sliding glass doors. An extension-lead snakes across the paved terrace. He plugs in a grinding-tool and selects a length from a tangled pile of angle-iron beside him, props one end on a piece of wood and starts the motor. The disc is a blur. It bites into the iron with a screech and a scatter of glowing fragments and a smell of fireworks. A two-foot section clangs to the ground. He starts again. Between his boots and over his shoulders sparks fly, cascading onto the glass doors with tiny clicks. A younger, larger man comes into view and holds steady the lengths of metal. His arms are at full stretch; his face is turned away from the sparks. They work in wordless harmony until all the scrap metal is reduced to manageable pieces. A young woman joins the men. She is the daughter of one of them; the other is her lover. They tidy the pile of scrap. Behind them is a line of frayed and faded prayer-flags, a crookback apple-tree, the long garden, the roofs beyond an unseen railway-cutting, and the clear winter sky where light softens into dusk and where soon Venus will appear.

THANK YOU SO MUCH TO AMA, SUE, ANN, JUNE and NIKKI FOR SENDING IN THEIR LISTS.

SOME OF THE EXTRACTS WE USED IN THE MORNING WORKSHOP APPEAR BELOW. I HOPE THAT MORE WILL BE ON THEIR WAY.  THE LISTS OF PREFERENCES FROM WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS APPEAR AFTER THESE AND WILL ALSO BE ADDED TO PROGRESSIVELY.

I am identifying them by the numbers we used together in the Murch Room as well as by their first few words.

My personal criteria were probably INTEREST, CLARITY, WANTING TO READ MORE BY THE WRITER and APPEALING USE OF LANGUAGE. There was a general consensus around these criteria as useful starting points.

PROSE EXTRACTS AND NOTES 

note from Ama Bolton very relevant to October 6th and other workshopping….
I would like to add a note of encouragement for anyone whose own work may have been overlooked in the choices: a poem of mine that was unanimously rejected in a workshop last year has had half a dozen rejections, a couple of new drafts and a change of title and will appear in the next issue of Magma. Sometimes it doesn’t take a lot of extra polishing to make a dull piece shine. We need to see every rejection as a chance to make the work better.
couldn’t agree more! sue

PASSAGE 13 IAN MCEWAN: SATURDAY
Submitted by Ann Preston

Then it’s time to tip the boiling juice off the skates and mussels into the casserole. When that’s done he has now, he reckons, about two and a half litres of bright orange stock which he’ll cook for another five minutes. Just before dinner, he’ll re-heat it and simmer the clams, monkfish, mussels and prawns in it for ten minutes. They’ll eat the stew with brown bread, salad and red wine. After New York, there’s the Kuwait-Iraq border, and military trucks moving in convoy along a desert road, and our lads kipping down by the tracks of their tanks, then eating bangers next morning from their mess-tins. He takes two bags of mache from the bottom of the fridge and empties them into a salad tosser. He runs the cold tap over the leaves. An officer, barely in his twenties, is standing outside his tent pointing with a stick at a map on an easel. Perowne isn’t tempted to disable the mute – these items from the front have a cheerful, sensored air that lowers his spirits. He spins the salad and tips it into the bowl. Oil, lemon, pepper and salt he’ll throw on later. There’s cheese and fruit for pudding. Theo and Daisy can set the table.

PASSAGE 17 ALI SMITH : GIRL MEETS BOY
submitted by Ama Bolton

… those felty buds, were they — antlers? were antlers really growing out of both of us? was my whole front furring over? and were we the same pelt? were our hands black shining hoofs? were we kicking? were we bitten? were our heads locked into each other to the death? till we broke open? …
we were blades, were a knife that could cut through myth, were two knives thrown by a magician, were arrows fired by a god, we hit heart, we hit home, we were the tail of a fish were the reek of a cat were the beak of a bird were the feather that mastered gravity were high above every landscape then deep down in the purple haze of the heather were roamin in a gloaming in a brash unending Scottish piece of perfect jigging reeling reel can we really keep this up? this fast? this high? this happy? round again? another notch higher … the perfect jigsaw fit of one into the curve of another as if a hilltop into sky .,..
that colour … the shining heads of – what? buttercups? because the scent of them, farmy and delicate, came into my head and out of my eyes, my ears …

PASSAGE 3 MARK DOTY : STILL LIFE WITH OYSTERS AND LEMON
which begins ‘A sharp cracking sold day…..’
NB Tessa has not sent us the extract yet
note from Tessa Strickland…. and see interview with Mark Doty in the Kenyon Review by clicking this link https://www.kenyonreview.org/2012/12/mark-doty-interview/

DeHeem_StillLifewithMottoandLentenFood1

The title of the book from which the pigeons and picture come is Mark Doty’s STILL LIFE WITH OYSTERS AND LEMON.
The title of the book is also the title of the picture he has fallen in love with, by the Dutch artist Jan Davidsz de Heem.
I can’t resist sharing what he goes on to write a few pages later, since it speaks somehow to our enquiry about prose:
(Of the picture, he writes:)
Simple, yet so firm in its assertions.
I’ll try to name them.
That this is the matrix in which we are held, the generous light binding together the fragrant and flavourful productions of vineyard, marsh and orchard-where has that lemon come from, the Levant?
That the pleasures of what can be tasted and smelled are to be represented, framed, set apart; that pleasure is to be honoured.
That the world is a dialogue between degrees of transparency- globes of the grapes, the wine in the glass equally penetrated by light but ever so slightly less clear than the vessel itself, degrees of reflectivity.
That the world of reflection implicates us, as well-there, isn’t that the faintest image of the painter in the base of the glass, tilted, distorted, lost in contemplation of his little realm? Looking through things, as well, through what he’s made of them, towards us?
That there can never be too much of reality; that the attempt to draw nearer to it-which will fail-will not fail entirely, as it will give us not the fact of lemons and oysters but this which is its own fact, its own brave assay towards what is.
That description is an inexact, loving art, and a reflexive one; when we describe the world we come closer to saying who we are.
And something else, of course; there’s aways more, deep in art’s pockets, far down in the chiaroscuro on which these foodstuffs rest; everything has been transformed into feeling, as if by looking very hard at an object it suddenly comes that much closer to some realm where it isn’t a thing at all but something just on the edge of dissolving. Into what?

SUE BOYLE’S CHOICES

FIRST CHOICE 12.  The Roches Noires, as far as I was able to discover…..
SECOND CHOICE 6. I had a farm in Africa,  at the foot of the Ngong Hills…..
THIRD CHOICE 18. He’s outside the sliding glass doors…..
FOURTH CHOICE 11. When Rachel was growing up computers were……
FIFTH CHOICE 3. A sharp cracking cold day, the air from the Upper East Side…..
SIXTH CHOICE 10. Before being published eight years ago Martin…..
SEVENTH CHOICE 13. Then it’s time to tip the boiling juice off the skates….
EIGHTH CHOICE 14. One morning some delicate slip of a thing….
NINTH CHOICE 1. Men may believe they don’t need women…..
TENTH CHOICE 7. The town itself is dreary……

AMA’S CHOICES

FIRST CHOICE 6. I had a farm in Africa
SECOND CHOICE 2. First picture the forest
THIRD CHOICE 10. Before being published eight years ago Martin
FOURTH CHOICE 9. I’ve been given my race
FIFTH CHOICE 1. Men may believe they don’t need women
SIXTH CHOICE 12.  The Roches Noires
SEVENTH CHOICE 3. A sharp cracking cold day
EIGHTH CHOICE 15. A woman sitting somewhere behind me
NINTH CHOICE 7. The town itself is dreary
TENTH CHOICE 17. Those felty buds

SUE SIMS’ CHOICES 

FIRST CHOICE 14. One morning some delicate slip of a thing….
SECOND CHOICE 15. A woman sitting somwhere behind me….
THIRD CHOICE 7. The town itself is dreary….
FOURTH CHOICE 6. I had a farm in Africa
FIFTH CHOICE 18. He’s outside the sliding glass doors….
SIXTH CHOICE 13. Then it’s time to tip the boiling juice off the skates….,
SEVENTH CHOICE 17. Those felty buds…
EIGHTH CHOICE 9. I’ve been given my race
NINTH CHOICE 12. The Roches Noires
TENTH CHOICE 11. When Rachel was growing up computers were….

 

ANN’S CHOICES

FIRST CHOICE 3. A sharp cracking cold day, the air from the Upper East Side…..
SECOND CHOICE 18. He’s outside the sliding glass doors…..
THIRD CHOICE 10. Before being published eight years ago Martin…..
FOURTH CHOICE 13. Then it’s time to tip the boiling juice off the skates….
FIFTH CHOICE 2. First picture the forest.
SIXTH CHOICE 12. The Roches Noires, as far as I was able to discover…..
SEVENTH CHOICE 11. When Rachel was growing up computers were……
EIGHTH CHOICE 6. I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills…..
NINTH CHOICE 7. The town itself is dreary……
TENTH CHOICE 9. I’ve been given my race.

JUNE’S CHOICES

FIRST CHOICE 1.  First picture the forest….
SECOND CHOICE 6. I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills…..
THIRD CHOICE 3. A sharp cracking cold day, the air from the Upper East Side…..
FOURTH CHOICE 10. Before being published eight years ago Martin…..
FIFTH CHOICE 12. The Roches Noires …
SIXTH CHOICE 6. One morning some delicate slip of a thing….
SEVENTH CHOICE 15. A woman was sitting somewhere behind me…
EIGHTH CHOICE 18. He’s outside the sliding glass doors…
NINTH CHOICE 19. …those felty buds, were they …antlers?
TENTH CHOICE 9. I’ve been given my race……

NIKKI’S CHOICES

FIRST CHOICE 6. I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills…..
SECOND CHOICE 14. One morning some delicate slip of a thing….
THIRD CHOICE 9. I’ve been given my race.
FOURTH CHOICE 12. The Roches Noires, as far as I was able to discover…..
FIFTH CHOICE 3. A sharp cracking cold day, the air from the Upper East Side…..
SIXTH CHOICE 13. Then it’s time to tip the boiling juice off the skates….
SEVENTH CHOICE 1. Men may believe they don’t need women….
EIGHTH CHOICE11. When Rachel was growing up computers were……
NINTH CHOICE 18. He’s outside the sliding glass doors….
TENTH CHOICE 7. The town itself is dreary……
.