INKSPILL: Guest Writer Workshop Roy McFarlane ‘Writing their presence…’



Are you ready for more from Roy McFarlane? Today we will be sharing the remaining Workshops he has generously prepared for us. In this workshop Roy uses ‘Hands’ a poem by Elaine Feinstein from ‘Talking to the Dead’.


© 2011 Smokestack Books


Writing their presence rather than the grief of loss

Talking to the Dead opens with a death in winter, and closes with a grandchild ‘as tender as blossom’. In poems which are moving but never dispiriting, Elaine Feinstein evokes her husband as he was – now affectionate, now querulous. It is his presence, rather than the grief of loss, which is the centre of the book. The next bit I love the truth of poetry, their willingness to be naked; theirs was not an easy relationship. Feinstein registers the difference between them, the ambivalence of a long marriage, and the intimacy of their last month together, this is what you’re going to do but we’ll read a few extracts before we start writing.



We first recognized each other as if we were siblings,

And when we held hands your touch

Made me stupidly happy.

Hold my hand, you said in hospital.

You had big hands, strong hands, gentle

As those of a Mediterranean father

Caressing the head of a child.

Hold my hand, you said. I feel

I won’t die while you are here.

You took my hand on our first aeroplane

And in opera houses, or watching

A video you wanted me to share.

Hold my hand, you said. I’ll fall asleep

And won’t even know you’re not there.


© Alma Books



This is where you go crazy, write down, quirks, infuriating actions, sayings, proverbs, habits, things that you pissed you off (be careful), things you loved, something they said that takes you back to a moment, or something said that has echoed over time or generations. Go for it, spend (15mins) just writing as many things as you can.

Ok, step back and see if you can find a refrain, an outstanding statement or action to repeat and build a poem. Here’s something extra see if you can find two strong lines and try to create a villanelle, I suggest the two lines that you’re using should be different, maybe opposites, or complimentary to each other, like;

Do not go gentle into that good night

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The greatest villanelle of all is by Dylan Thomas.




For those who need it find out how to write a villanelle here.




Talking to the Dead is available to buy here

Read the full poem – a preview page showing ‘Hands’ can be read here Roy used the full poem in this post, other poems are available to read in this book preview, should you wish for more from Elaine Feinstein.


INKSPILL Poetry Film Night (4)



POETRY FILM NIGHT presents Alastair Cook

To complete our Poetry Film Night, we have the master of poetry film making – Alastair Cook.

We have chosen Amerika (The Man Who Disappeared)

It was three years in the making, with new writing by twenty of the world’s best poets, sountracked by composer Luca Nasciutia and read by poet Rachel McCrum – screens worldwide from Autumn 2016. New ekphrasis work by poets John Glenday, Vicki Feaver, Stevie Ronnie, Janie McKie, Brian Johnstone, Jo Bell, Andrew Philip, Linda France, Dave Bonta, Angela Readman, Michael Vandebril, Gerard Rudolf, George Szirtes, Emily Dodd, Ian Duhig, Rachel McCrum, Robert Peake, Polly Rowena Atkin, Pippa Little and Vona Groarke.


Treat yourself to the full screen, get comfortable, sit back and relax.



INKSPILL: Poetry Film Night (3)



POETRY FILM NIGHT presents Kei Miller

This is poetry and poet on film really. Another favourite poet of mine, Kei Miller, who I was fortunate to watch and meet at Swindon Poetry Festival 2015.

Let us start with the interview.


And now for a poem.


INKSPILL Poetry Film Night (2)



POETRY FILM NIGHT presents Pablo Neruda

One of my favourite poets Pablo Neruda comes next in our poetry film night. There are several films on this post.

Three innovative new films – RANT * RAVE * RIFF. Poema 20 was written in 1924 by Pablo Neruda. The poem is recited in its native Spanish by Carlos Alfaro and includes English subtitles translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin. Perhaps one of Neruda’s most beautiful love poems Poema 20 comes to life with classic footage of Rudolph Valentino. 




The next poem is ‘And Now You’re Mine’.




And finally ‘I Like For You to be Still’



INKSPILL – Poetry Film Night



POETRY FILM NIGHT presents Shane Koyczan

Starting off the Poetry Film Night is this video from Shane Koyczan.

I was lucky enough to see him perform at Hit The Ode in 2014, he is an amazing man. This poetry film is part of To This Day Project, confronting bullying.

“My experiences with violence in schools still echo throughout my life but standing to face the problem has helped me in immeasurable ways.

Schools and families are in desperate need of proper tools to confront this problem. This piece is a starting point.” – Shane


INKSPILL – Fiction Rules for Writers


Fiction Rules for Writers. We all need to know this, we are always curious to discover people’s thoughts on this area. As far as people go this list of established writers is not to be sniffed at.

Follow the link to 10 Rules for Writing Fiction published in The Guardian (2010)

Writers include; Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James & AL Kennedy.

The second part of the article includes; Hilary Mantel, Michael Moorcock, Michael Morpurgo, Andrew Motion, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Will Self, Helen Simpson, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters and Jeanette Winterson

and can be found here


ENJOY! Happy writing x


INKSPILL – Hugging the Monster


We all have one – that loud obnoxious inner critic that gets in our way, stops us believing. We are about to hug that monster, so flex your arms ready!


We are going to write a letter to our inner critic.

Dear Monster… I am sure you all have a name for this beast.

Do NOT stop, tell them exactly what you think of them messing with your confidence and if you brave enough give them some advance warning of what terrible fate they will suffer next time they enter your head.


You may think this is a really silly exercise, but believe me – next time the inner critic pops up you will be ready to whack that nuisance away. You may not even hear them. We live in hope.


Anyway – have fun with this little exercise and be sure to sign off as your writer self.


INKSPILL: Gaia Harper and the Foyle Young Poets Prize



You met our Guest Writer, Gaia Harper, you read she won the Foyle Young Poet prize in 2015. Here’s where you find out about the competition and hear a BBC Radio interview Gaia excitedly managed when she was in London for the prize giving last year.

Every year, 15 young people across the country are selected as top winners of the Foyle Young Poets competition. In 2015 judged by esteemed poets Liz Berry and Michael Symmons Roberts. There were thousands of entries from all over the world.

The winning entries were anthologised in Wolves of Normality


Image copyright 2015 The Poetry Society

You can read them here

The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award is the biggest award for writers aged 11-17. It welcomes poems on any theme and entry is completely FREE.

Since it began the Award has kick-started the career of some of today’s most exciting new voices. Past winners include Sarah Howe, Helen Mort and Caroline Bird.

© 2016 The Poetry Society

The Guardian also publish the winning poems, read them all here


RADIO INTERVIEW with Gaia Harper

Gaia-Rose Harper is interviewed by BBC Radio Shropshire on National Poetry Day about her prize-winning poem ‘Columbia Calling’. Gaia-Rose’s poem was chosen from over 12000 entries from 69 countries as one of the 15 winners of the 2015 Foyle Young Poets Award.

In the photo, Gaia-Rose gets her picture taken with poet Liz Berry, one of the judges of the competition.


This year they received over 10,000 entries. The judges were Malika Booker and W.N. Herbert. Find out more about the 2016 results here

INKSPILL Guest Writer Interview with Gaia Harper





Gaia Harper talks to Nina Lewis about her love of language, why poetry is important and winning Foyle Young Poets prize in our exclusive INKSPILL interview.


Can you describe a time when you realised creating (writing) was something you absolutely had to do?

As soon as I had read Howl by Allen Ginsberg, I knew I had to write. That was the defining moment for me; it still continues to be one of the most powerful influences behind everything I write.

Who are some of your favourite poets?

Ever since I first got into poetry I’ve adored the Beats, so I’d have to say Allen Ginsberg. Rainer Maria Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus is one of my favourite collections, and anything by Whitman catches my eye. As for modern poets, I’ve recently got into Sarah Howe and Claudia Rankine.

Why is poetry important?

To quote Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society, “We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.” Poetry is in everything you or I do, in the folding of a napkin, the simple act of smiling. We would be stupid to ignore it.

What comes first in a poem, are you prompted by the idea or form?

Most of my poetry is purely spontaneous; I am rarely one of those people who can sit down and choose to write on a certain topic. The smallest things can trigger a poem for me. Often song lyrics or quotes from films prompt ideas; writing purely on a song or film is something I’ve recently got into. I have a love-hate relationship with form, as most of what I write is in free verse, however I love playing with form from time to time; I’m a big fan of a loose sonnet.


What books are you currently reading?

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King and Naked Lunch by William Burroughs. I love books that make you think, but sometimes you need a good horror to get your teeth into. Poetry wise, I’m currently flicking through Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.

What was it like entering the Foyle competition?

To be honest, I was dubious about entering at first considering the vast number of entries, so it took me a long time to get around to submitting. When I eventually sent them off, the anticipation was awful, but obviously the results were worth the wait.

How did you find Arvon with Liz Berry & Michael Symmons?

It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Liz and Michael are such lovely people as well as poets, and they are so supportive. It was strangely wonderful to be able to have a lesson with them, and then have Liz helping you cook dinner.

Are you a member of the Young Poets Network?

I’ve been a member of the Young Poets Network for a couple of years now. Everything they post comes straight to my email, so it’s great to get unexpected prompts and competitions I could enter.

Do you have any advice for aspiring young poets?

To any young poets out there, I would say ignore everything anyone has ever told you about what poetry has to be. School is never going to teach you a thing about poetry, even if it tries. Rant and shout about every little thing you want to, and write it all down. Don’t let anyone put parameters around your writing; whether it be a rhyme scheme or a way of feeling. What teenagers write is often dismissed as angsty; fight back. Write whatever the hell you want.