A Writer Must Write…

12 Dec

When my inbox was blessed with the information that I was one of the lucky Mouth’s going on a 5 day writing retreat at one of the most prestigious writing organisations, my pupils dilated, excitement ricochet from my body and of my office walls, my mouth stretched into sunshine…I had to go to Arvon! First I had to apply, in the way of a 200 word statement and then wait…then pray and wait.

I think I’ve been resisting announcing myself as a writer because I’ve found it hard to tackle certain experiences that have stowed away in dark deep high security spaces in my mind, from Jamaica  where I was working as a TV producer.  Being jealous issues, they resented other topics that would flowing freely from my pen and enviously erected a blockade. Some poems have managed to find there way to the page but not as many as  I have in my head.

Going to the Arvon Writing retreat aloud me to unpack the stowaway’s issues in a safe environment. Freeing them on the page with the gentle yet surreal teasing from Caroline Bird, a zealous Roger Robinson (who demanded a poem every minute at one stage!)  and the other 17 Mouthy Poets who were all unpacking their own stowaways. Caroline Bird and Roger Robinson were our workshop leaders; two accomplished writers with writing and workshop styles from contrasting ends of the spectrum complimenting each other perfectly.

Caroline Bird

Caroline Bird

Roger Robinson

Roger Robinson

Each morning would begin with a quick breakfast then an intense writing workshop starting at 9:30  with Caroline and Roger until 1ish I think (I lost all sense of time at Arvon).  Caroline and Roger got us to try various writing techniques by giving us a plethora of writing stimulus’s.

So from Lunch time to 7:30ish I would retire to room and write inspired from the morning session, only on one day did I venture away from my writing table in my room and explore the town of Clun.

Each evening we were divided into teams who would cook for the rest, using a recipe presented by Ruth. This was so much fun- I think you can really get to know some one by the way  they behave in a kitchen!

After the evening meal at around 9ish each night, we would entre the Ted Hughes suite and enjoy, listen, recite, discuss more poetry. On the first night  Roger set us the task of writing a 14ner poem and told us that we would each have to produce a chap book of ten poems by the end of the five days. This initially set panic in the room, but we did accept the challenge after all we had all come to Arvon to write. The second night we had the chance to hear Roger and Caroline recite their own work. The third night Nick Makoha was invited to share his work. This is when the phrase ‘Nicked’ took on a whole different meaning for many of the Mouhty’s. Nick challenged everyone in the room to confront their stowed away issues, many of the Mouthy’s were brave enough to share them with the rest of the group and this went on until the early hours of the next day.  I wasn’t one of the brave Mouthy’s, after listening to Nick (and with Caroline and Roger’s advise echoing in my ears) I stayed up until about 3:30am writing and finally began to open up those dark corners and shine a poetic light on them, determined to rise to the chap book task using the stowaways to fuel it.

Thursday Night we had a ‘cover evening’. This where we each Mouthy chose a poem written by another poet and share this with the group., I chose ‘When’ by Sue Stewart or should I say the poem chose me about 10 minutes before time. I randomly open the book and was greeted by the poem . After reading it’s message of change I knew it was perfect to share with the group after they were all ‘Nicked’

Caroline taught me most is if I have an issue I want to write about that is hard to define, don’t try to define it but embrace it’s contrasting emotions, truths and write it! She also spoke about how dreams (the ones we have at night) are translating our day in images (she put it in a more scientific way, explaining BETA , ALPHA, DELTA and another word ending in  ‘A’)  and as poets we translate experiences/stories or what ever, using words to create images giving us permission to be surreal…I can’t remember the point I was trying to make here but hearing this info gave me a mini light bulb moment.

Roger illuminated the importance of a writer finding and being honest to his/her voice. A voice for a writer, is a finger print or signature not only to identify you from the many other writers out there who may be writing about the same topic as you but identifying your voice also awards you with a starting point for each new piece of work.  We also explored  various structures and the importance of line breaks – how they can emphasise a point, give space for reflection, and help to create rhythm.  Structure is something that I ignored previously- I would just write, but setting yourself a task of writing to a particular structure is a bit like giving yourself cutlery and crockery to eat with. Structure can help you pick out the poem from your head.

Friday night we each shared our new poems from our chap book. I see this night as a transformational stage in my short poetic life, it was the first time I used my new poetic voice. I return from Arvon with a horrific cold and nose bleeds, my mind absolutely drained from the assault course I put it through, but more importantly I returned feeling so inspired to keep writing and I’m currently working on a collection of poems that will eventually form my debut mini book. I can’t thank Roger, Caroline, Kerry , Ruth, Deborah and  the Mouthy Poets enough.





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