The Four-Line Workshop

10 Dec

So a few Fridays back, the Mouthy Poets had a workshop with a fellow poet named John Berkavitch. During this workshop he set us a task – to think of a person who is frequently in our lives, but who we have never really spoken to. My immediate thought was a man who lives on my street – Morris. Him and my mum get on well together, but I myself have hardly ever spoken to him. 

Then John set us the task of writing a poem of four lines about this character. This poem had to have ten different poetic devices included in it, and we only had five minutes to write it. Six of the devices were to do with narrative – the way I think of it, Todorov’s ‘equilibrium, disequilibrium, new equilibrium’ theory – which basically stated that we needed a change to occur during the poem. 

It also needed to rhyme, it needed to have the character speak at some point, and it needed a twist. It also needed the use of a metaphor somewhere in it. After the five minutes, we were to read our extracts out, and we could only provide negative feedback to each other (to get us used to taking criticism). It was almost as if this task was set to give us plenty to criticise on. But when I read mine, the group went quiet:



Forgotten man Morris was edging towards the shops

When he saw me on the pavement, turned to me and stopped

“Can I see my wife now?” he asked me with regret

“Walk on Morris.” I sighed. “You’re not dead yet.”


Real-life character Morris had a wife who died of Alzheimer’s a few years ago, and one of the only times I have ever spoken to him was on my way back from school one day. He saw me across the street, walked up to me, and asked me if I’d seen his wife. She’d wandered off, and he didn’t know where she’d gone. When Berkavitch told us to make our characters talk in our poem, that was the line that automatically came into my head. It was then just a case of making a response that was worthy of being a ‘twist’ in the tale.


2 Responses to “The Four-Line Workshop”

  1. Matt M December 13, 2012 at 2:45 am #

    Who’s this? I love this poem. 5 minute draft? I’m not sure I’d change a thing.

    Matt M

  2. mouthypoets January 6, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

    Totally agree with Matt. It is fantastic.

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