Particularly at this stage of writing my book, it’s essential for me to ‘fill the well’ with more writerly inspiration, to avoid getting locked down into an uninspiring purely ‘editing’ mode. Yesterday I went to the ‘Wolf at the Door‘ writing workshop at the Brighton Buddhist Centre. It’s been a long time since I attended a purely writing workshop – although I went to an amazing writing and five rhythms workshop in June with Lori Saltzman in London – and I wanted to treat myself to a day of plumbing those creative depths, making time and space for the stream-of-consciousness timed writing that can lead to developing new work.
At the workshop we discussed the concept of ‘tipping gravel and finding pebbles’ – letting out all the ‘gravel” of our conscious and unconscious mind on the page and then mining for valuable ‘pebbles’ of poem-worthy material. We looked at Jane Hirshfield’s short haiku-like poems, as well as the poetic form of ‘haibun’, in which words describing images are used as signposts along a mental and emotional journey. I wrote a piece about ‘my favourite kind of morning’ which led onto surprising territory, ending up in my childhood experience of being woken on school mornings by the click of the door down the passage – which was very much not a favourite kind of morning!
We were set an assignment to note down images that occur during the lunch break, then work them into a form on our return to the workshop. One of my favourite parts of the workshop was studying a fantastic poem called ‘Inventory/Itinerary’ by Ken Smith, a powerful exploration of isolation while travelling. I wrote a poem about my experiences in Mexico as a result – untitled as yet:
A nearly-missed plane
A late night Mexican airport,
a British shaman and his Mexican wife,
their two year old son,
a pang, grief,
tears and drunken Spanish
outside the hotel,
fear of cockroaches.
Mexico City, looking for the
Zocalo. Middle-aged couples
kissing on park benches,
one lone tank-topped woman
drawing eyes in a Catholic country.
Night, cold starry, desert quiet,
one accidental peyote cactus,
a ritual burning on a hilltop,
7 late night ceremonies in the
temple, the baby’s cries,
a freezing cold sweat lodge.
the German guy who didn’t get it.
And the shaman’s wife telling me,
there is a lie, deep
It was great to hear the other participants’ work, diving into their worlds for a few moments, as well as to take some time to go beneath my own discursive monkey-mind and find what lies beneath. I’ve been inspired by the workshop leader to start a daily practice of timed writing again, even if only for five minutes.
The Creative Future Literary Awards, part of the ‘The Small Wonder’ Short Story Festival at Charleston in Sussex, was on Friday night and I went along to hear some prose and poetry performed by those selected to be in the ‘The Spark’ anthology of pieces from marginalised writers. It was lovely to hear Ros Barber, one of my favourite poets, read again – her poem was about her experience of being a single mother on a low income, so was something I could very much relate to. One of her other poems is called ‘How to Leave the World that Worships ‘Should” – I love that title. Again, it’s been a while since I had the opportunity to attend a live literature event, and it inspired me to submit more work.