I cannot think of a better way to spend a day than by reading poetry, stoking fires, watching rivers, and writing in the company of kind, interesting, and like-minded people. Last Saturday, I got to do just this as Emma Metcalfe and I co-led our Dipping into Poetry workshop.
This session is part of a Literature Wales funded summer series which encourages participants to explore landscape writing through poetry, prose, and performance. All the workshops are set at the Ciliau, a stunning ramshackle house in the middle of Radnorshire, mid-Wales. To get there requires a journey over a one lane bridge. It is remote, to say the least.
Yet, it has hardly been the beautiful house or the land at all that has made these workshops such a treat for me and Emma. We’ve had some wonderful participants who have inspired us, challenged us, and, perhaps most importantly, complimented Emma’s homemade cakes.
For this workshop Emma and I shared some of what we love about poetry – the sounds, the images, the narratives, and the way it turns ordinary things into something significant. We used pieces from Richard Gwyn, clare e. potter, and Ruth Bidgood to illustrate these points and elicit responses from the group. We even built-in some time to head down to the river and just read. Even I got to watch the water and thumb through Robert Hass’ collected works and The Yellow Table by Alicia Stubbersfield. What a luxury.
Below you can see some of the writing that was inspired by this workshop. The first three poems are from Bethan, a freelance stage manager who was trying to decide whether or not she even liked poetry. I think it is clear from her first attempts that poetry certainly likes her.
Ideal for student parents
Two bed terrace,
for four bed let.
Mid price, brick mid-terrace.
This house is looking for a home.
Cushions and colour and permanence. But
it is just watermarks and coffee rings.
I am already different and interesting,
I am already looked at.
So when I walk to market
Sing the songs of the kitchen, festivals and music rooms of home.
Sing Rise Above and Ghost of Corporate Future.
Sing all the parts and people of home I miss
to smirking passers-by
because I am comforted
We live on a noisy street.
I could list the noises, but we are so used to them,
it hardly seems worth it.
If you’re curious, just stand on any busy street,
make sure it has a good mix of shops, flats, bus-stops and pubs,
(If you’re worried about authenticity,
make sure it is on a road between two hospitals,
so you get an accurate number of sirens.)
There are some more extraordinary noises too.
Last week there was a protesting parade of drummers from Pakistan.
But that has only happened once.
The shutters happen twice a day.
I always hear the shutters. And check the clock.
They go up at half past nine. And down at half past six.
That is why I hear them.
The roaring metallic rush of the shutters on the shop downstairs
reminds me of the rhythm I have rejected and envy and am free from.
Everyday, twice a day,
Monday through Saturday.
Silent on Sunday.
The final piece I’ll share is from Rachel who has been on both Writing Landscape workshops and continues to chronicle her experiences on her own lovely blog.
O Nicholas Don’t Be So Ridiculous!
Aged nine, I told her I was in love
with a boy named Nicholas.
She laughed, I remember the song
bursting from her like the zest
when you plunge your thumbs,
into an orange.
Oh Nicholas don’t be so ridiculous!
I’m not sure whether she carried
the song through Wales, London, Russia
or whether the rhyme hit her, SMACK –
out of the sky like bird shit.
Later I waited in her bed, ready to
name all the rivers I could.
I watched her lay her knickers out,
impossibly large, embroidered with butterflies.
They were pink, but not as pink as
the two wide smiles of her scars.
She saw me looking, covered herself,
waggled her finger at me and sang,
Oh Nicholas, don’t be so ridiculous.
I hope to post more pieces from this and future workshops as I receive them. For now though, please enjoy a random selection of photographs from Dipping into Poetry. My, the Ciliau really is a spectacular place.