If you haven’t yet booked yourself a place at some of the events at the FREE Writers’ Retreat, Take a look!! And if you have been thinking of coming to the workshop I’ll be running on Thursday 9th June, don’t worry if you haven’t got any ‘family documents’ to bring with you – I’ve planned for ways to inspire your writing, whether you bring something with you or not.
I’ve been having a wonderfully restful and creative break recently – the first event was a weekend writing course that I’d booked several months ago at Holland House– in Copthorne, a small village in the Vale of Evesham. It was my third visit to this retreat centre with its four acres of inspiring gardens sweeping down to the river - it’s an ideal venue for inspiring creativity.
I’d forgotten to charge the batteries on my camera, so these pictures are ones I took in 2006. The course was well planned and enthusiastically delivered by Myra Schneider and John Killick
The theme of this course was ‘Time’ and it provided me with material for a couple of drafts, and several more ideas for future poems. I’m very slow at the process of producing, not just the ideas, but the words to express them, and I always enjoy hearing the other participants reading their work. John will be sending out a piece of writing from each of the fifteen of us on the course, (once we’ve emailed them to him) and I’m really looking forward to reading them at leisure – there were so many excellent poems.
Fortunately for me, I’ve (almost) stopped measuring my work and the pace of my output against that of everyone else’s, who always seem to be far more prolific than I am. After I’ve achieved a draft that feels as though it might be going somewhere, I enjoy the period of re-writing and re-writing, till I’m sure that every word is the best one in the best order for that poem. (This stage usually takes me two or three weeks, and sometimes even longer.)
I’m still working on a poem from a couple of weekends ago, so here’s one from my very first Holland House course, inspired by the yew hedges and other trees in the garden. I was delighted when it won 1st prize for the ‘single poem’ section of the New Writers’ Competition of 2006. (see the poem below)
As for ‘Wuthering Heights’ – this was the venue of another gathering of writers that I took part in last week. That wasn’t really the name of this large stone house on the highest point of a high ridge on the edge of the Dark Peak, not far from Kinder Scout – I called it that because of the persistent gale force winds that boomed and battered at the walls and windows for most of the week. It didn’t affect our enjoyment though, and we were able to stretch our legs most days, in spite of some lashing rain storms.
One afternoon we walked through the Longshaw estate, run by the National Trust.I was interested to find a tenuous connection between the nearby town of Hathersage and Emily Bronte, the author of Wuthering Heights (via her sister, Charlotte, who had spent some time there with a friend). You can find out about its link to her own well-known novel, Jane Eyre, here.
I arrived back home again on Friday afternoon, then on Saturday I was back in Derbyshire to meet up with some of my friends from my M.A. Writing Course at N.T.U.This time I was staying in the picturesque village of Ashover, situated in the Amber valley, just outside the Peak District National Park.
It’s surrounded by hills and we walked up to the top of one, behind my friend’s house, - This rock is called The Fabrick and apparently was once the site of an old Druid temple – it’s a landmark that can be seen from a miles around. The village was first mentioned in the Domesday book and it has been called the valley of ’silence and wild flowers’. You can’t get much more poetic than that!
When I Can Choose
I’ll live in a house with high ceilings,
and practise topiary.
Yew hedges will take root
along the skirting boards.
I’ll clip them into crenellations
below the roses on the coving,
gouge out small, square windows
to let green light spill in.
New fronds, bright as limes
will stroke my cheek, my palms,
and winter berries will kindle
the white tips of my fingers.
I’ll curl up on the springy floor
of camomile and thyme. Trace
familiar features in the dark.
Wind will stream up from the river,
clatter through the aspen leaves.
Drown out the one not chosen.
First of all, I want to let people know about a FREE writers’ week that starts on Monday 6th June and finishes on the following Saturday.
The main theme for the week is , ‘Memoirs’, and I’ve been asked to run one of the workshops, and also to give a talk about self publishing, so if you know anyone who is interested in creative writing and lives within a reasonably easy journey from Erdington in the north of Birmingham, please direct them to this site – whatever kind of writing you want to develop, there’s bound to be something there for you.
In my previous post I mentioned the latest Soundswrite Anthology of poetry. This cover was taken from a painting by the talented artist and poet, Helen Jayne Gunn, one of the many contributors to the anthology.
It will be available from the Soundswrite Website.
(This site is about to be about to be updated)
Anyone who has attended courses on writing poetry, is more than likely to have met Alice Beer, whose obituary appeared in The Guardian on Thursday 7th April 2011. Click
I’m posting this picture of ‘my’ local bluebell wood because it’s a place I visit several times every April, checking on the progress of the brand new beech leaves and the mass of bluebell spears. There was a bluebell wood not far from the house in Sussex where I spent my childhood, but this one is the best I’ve ever come across.
Here’s a poem I wrote several years ago – this photo doesn’t illustrate the poem, but it captures the beautiful light of an April day, two or three weeks ago
Taking Amy For A Walk
When we reach the wood, anemones
like sackfuls of spilt stars
lie scattered between birch
and sycamore. I can only guess
how green spears poised in shade
are holding hidden blue as tight as breath.
Wind tosses sunlight down through
restless branches - her long pale hair
becomes a blur of light. She wears
her denim the way a dryad might
disguise herself to walk with humans.
Eyes as far away as shards of sky.
I thought the bluebells would be out, she says,
half petulant, as though she’s been misled.
She hesitates beside a mound of earth,
amber and burnt sienna, glistening with
movement of seething bodies,
a million legs bent on a single purpose.
They clamber over identical neighbours
without a qualm – those brains
hold nothing singular or strange.
I wriggle a dead stick inches down into
their huge construction. I want to uncover
its hundreds of intricate channels, reach
into secret chambers where white eggs
are hatching in the dark, like thoughts.
I want to bring them into the light of day.
Amy shudders, watching the creatures
scurry and cluster along the stick.
I throw it down and take her cool dry hand.