INKSPILL Guest Writer Roy McFarlane Workshop ‘Being There’

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So Roy’s workshops are going deep, for this one you may need tissues (and we should never let that put us off), or as he suggests a shoulder to lean on afterwards. You can always start a conversation in the reply boxes below and if you happen to have the ‘treasure’ of an empty house to write in, you may want to have some connection after this.

We are here LIVE today, so talk to us if you wish to.

In this workshop Roy looks at the poetry of Hannah Lowe.

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© 2011 Smokestack Books

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Being there

Being there is the toughest journey, you’re a journalist on a battlefield, fighting the inevitable, there’s no turning back, you’re right in the middle of it, seeing blood and fluid, hearing the groans and pains, screaming for help and assistance. The following is the middle passage of Six Days in March by Hannah Lowe from Chick.

*

No dignity in this.

We find you on the stairs,

old child in tears. You want to piss

and so I carry you,

the weightless body folded in my arms

The house is smaller, brighter.

I pass the doorway quickly

where my mother holds your face,

a bowl of milky water on her knee, a razor.

The nurses come, their blue efficiency,

their muscled hands. They twist you on the sheets

and lay you naked, powdered clean, clean.

The shocking body in the light,

bone and paper skin,

the ladder on your shins of buckle scars,

thighs so slight and girlish,

your penis dumb and nuzzled

In its bed of hair.

Old child in tears. You want to piss, the old adage of twice a child once a man, so beautifully put, the fragility of old age, the dependence now on his daughter, search for those juxtaposition, poetry loves juxtapositions.

The house is smaller, brighter. So much is said in these few lines, the child returns as a carer, but the house being brighter fascinates me, maybe she sees her father clearer now, do we see our parents who were hard on us different when their older or in Hannah’s case the father who picked her up at ballerina classes, is no longer the taxi driver (the narrative she shared with friends), she now sees things in a brighter light.

The nurses come, their blue efficiency, their muscled hands. They twist you on the sheets, I love this description blue efficiency, muscled hands, they twist you, there’s no time for sensitivity, there’s a job to be done, a repetition of work that nurses are so use to and this is not a damning of insensitivity but an honesty of the work that nurses have to do, industrious, thankless and tireless.

The ladder on your shins of buckle scars; what more do we have to say, poetry loves new way of describing, condemning the cliché to the bottom draw and bringing out something new, something ladened with a story, history, just go for it and say something new in that one line.


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Exercise

I need you to think of that moment, in the hospital room, at side of the road of an accident, at work, those days leading to the inevitable or at the moment of death. I want you for this moment to step out of your body and be the individual going through the pain, suffering; be another member in the room, a child maybe; be the nurse, doctor or any other staff; be the bed, the mirror; and then be yourself and see where you go.

Take your time with this, take time out if you need to and have your best friend, partner or sibling near, by phone or in the house, because you might just need someone to lean on when you’ve finished this exercise.

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