On Saturday, I left home at 7.30 am to drive over the hill to Carterton. The reason for this, was the lure of a free Poetry Workshop and later on, performance by Chris Tse. What’s not to like?
The Poetry Workshop was at the rather flash new Carterton Events Centre (well, it looks very new). We were in the Hurunui o Rangi Room. Rather like a Corporate Boardroom with Chris and his whiteboard at the top table.
One and a half hours to unpick the meaning of two poems and have a go a writing something ourselves (with several song lyric prompts on the whiteboard).
But, first we had to introduce ourselves and tell the group what sparked joy for us, or in us. Of course cliches abound with such a question. One group member had both a mother and a granddaughter named Joy, which was rather special. One woman claimed that joy for her was elusive and she needed to work out how to find it. A dog licking a waking face was another rather lovely image. Grandchildren, the night sky… You get the drift.
We looked at Jenny Bornholdt’s now very famous poem ‘Make Sure’. It is a perfect example of how to undercut, and distill what is for sure, a Kiwi cliché – man lost in the bush – grieving wife talking to the news. The discussion around this poem was interesting because love was the enduring theme in responses to it. The clever final shift of pronoun from you to I in the last line, owning the whole poem. It’s easy to read this poem several times and find new ways to inhabit it. It had an extra resonance with the shadow of Cyclone Gabrielle stalking our thoughts.
We then read a poem by Sam Duckor-Jones ‘Allemande in G by J.S. Bach. I’d read this poem before and to be honest, I’d dismissed it as pretentious modern and who cares. But, when I had it explained to me by Chris and what Sam was doing with musical notes, I finally ‘got it’. No longer pretentious, but clever, ingenious and great fun. Poetry that has constraints is something I admire. The Villanelle, Sestina or even a Sonnet.
The final exercise was to write for about ten minutes (maybe a little longer, but not long) – just the first response without thinking too hard, to prompts from the whiteboard.
Here’s my effort… yet to be tamed.
I didn’t start the fire
Mum did, she sharpened the axe first, in the shed cobwebs overhead, the smell of lawnmower petrol and freshly cut kindling what was she thinking falling for the returned soldier who proposed in the graveyard threatening to kill himself as she scrunches paper into tight balls to build a cushion, allow air in before setting the wood before striking the match before does she hesitate does she wait to strike the match to smell the sulphur sometimes, peeling onions she stuck a struck match in her mouth, evidently folklore has it this will stop you crying
Chris generously gave out pencils at the end of the workshop and I grabbed two – see my photo. He really is an inspirational poet. His journey as a young Chinese Gay man and the story he told us at his performance later in the day…. He talked to his Mum about ‘coming out’ and she said to him ‘you’ll be lonely’…. His reply ‘I’m already lonely’. Wow. Right to the heart. He owns the stage, he owns his poems and he’s generous to boot. After reading several of his own poems, he chose to read some of his favourite poems from other poets he knows. Applause.
6 thoughts on “Unpacking Cliches”
Wow, Maggie – amazing. The workshop with Chris and your poem. xx
Thanks, Trish! It really was an inspirational day. Chris is such a terrific performer of his own poetry and well worth going to listen to. He is as his latest collection is called, a ‘Super Model Minority’ and our beloved Poet Laureate (what a great choice). XX
Love it 😍
Magic time and something I would love to attend is a poetry workshop. One day. Love the poem, Maggie.
Thank you, Suzanne. Yes, poetry workshops are a great way to re-ignite your love of poetry. This was a free workshop from our Poet Laureate, so well worth a trip over the hill to attend.
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