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’.
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.
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.