Poetry Sessions @ Pool Arts Studio, with Nigel Wood
At the beginning of August I started running weekly poetry writing sessions on Tuesday evenings in the Pool Arts studio – the first face-to-face sessions I’ve done for nearly 2 years, so I wasn’t sure I’d still remember how to interact with other human beings, let alone facilitate a session! But after having had to find other ways to work with people through lockdown – via phone, email and Zoom – it was great for us to be able to sit down together and feed off each other’s creative energies.
The first sessions focused on writing poems based around the theme of past, present and future, giving us a chance to create works that reflect on our recent past experiences during the lockdown, our current situations and our hopes and dreams for the future, while thinking about how we can use this 3-way focus as a way to structure a poem – using 3-line stanzas with alternating lines about past, present and future being just one example that we experimented with.
We’ve also spent a couple of sessions going out to local parks (All Saints Park on Oxford Road and Ardwick Green) with a worksheet to make notes what we’re seeing, hearing, feeling etc, then going back to the studio to drink tea and write poems using the words and phrases we’ve jotted down.
In order to try to ensure everyone stays healthy and well while they’re coming to the studio we’ve had to restrict numbers so we can have enough space between us, with Alison booking participants in for sessions and Jenny ringing round the day before to remind everyone and check they can still come. One of the benefits of having smaller groups is that it has been conducive to encouraging us to talk about some of the barriers to creativity we can face – a common one being low self-confidence and self-esteem, and how this can inhibit us from showing our work to others for fear of a negative response – or even from attempting creative work in the first place. This led us into discussions about the origins of these negative feelings and the way they impact on other aspects of our lives, and gave us the opportunity to share our experiences of trying to overcome them. Based on what participants have said to me, these sessions have helped with this – the experience of being in a place where we feel comfortable enough to read our work to the rest of the group and getting an enthusiastic response helping build confidence and a positive sense of who we are and what we can do.
Here are a selection of poems that people have contributed to share:
Ardwick Green Park
Seeing children playing in the park
Hearing leaves rustling under our feet
Smelling lilac flowers in gardens
Touching bark from a tree
Feeling the heat on my face.
Seeing archway windows on the building opposite
Hearing the traffic driving past in rush hour
Touching overgrown bushes through the railings
Feeling a calming atmosphere surrounding us.
Early Evening, Ardwick Green
House and blue sky
Cars and trucks
Shrubs and flowers
Touching park bench and tarmac
not Big Mac
Breeze and sun
Past, Present and Future
Getting back to normal
Things not right
Still the same
Thinking of the Future
Go to New York
Off to Home on Thursday –
Hot chocolate with Yuen
All Saints Park
I see bench and gates
I hear squirrels and people eating
I smell pollution and rubbish
I touch grass and trees
I feel chill and tense
ALL SAINTS PARK (For Pam)
Through the large wrought iron, fading black gate,
a plaque announcing burial grounds, strolling above
the ageing bones, lying deeper than the quietist tomb.
On the surface there is unrest. The whole print run
of the free paper is taking off folded, then landing
open at other headlines. Fish and chip wrappers,
pizza boxes from endless, sparkling, Wilmslow Road
takeaways, cans crushed in hand or underfoot, drunk
bodies lie burnt, cannabis sucked into the throats and up
the noses of non-smokers, the surrounding Manchester
Polytechnic buildings recoil at a decade of rubbish.
Through the large wrought iron, newly painted black gate,
bones still lie deep but now sleep more peacefully. Trees
appear taller, shrubbery smells green, lawns are almost
manicured, flowers speak freely in all languages and at its
centre a Stonehenge lookalike welcomes back new students,
looking forward to their first face to face lectures. Two
drinkers abuse themselves within their bubble, wars still rage,
but Manchester Metropolitan University buildings hold hands,
lean in and smell the parks roses.
WRITTEN IN BLOOD
Sharp at 3.40pm, out of North building’s senior management
office, into the foyer with a clipboard under his arm like
a retired military man, a ramrod back in a new Armani suit.
Boys on his list would never dare be late for his roll call
which begins at maximum volume as his first step beats
the public carpet. He shouts their numbers, one to twelve
and standing circle time, without words or movement, begins.
Mixed gender leavers snigger past, pointing, whistling
when far enough away not to be caught, sticking up two
fingers when Mr Bludgeon half turns, left and right, firing
a volley of under arm farts. The new numbers shake and soil
themselves, the experienced thank their gods that they’re
not chained in an orange jump suit, for now.