Objects to hang our words on – Roy McFarlane
There are no fast rules, the only rule is to write, write it your way the best way that you can. I only ask that you write the truth, bare as much of you as you can on the page – being true to yourself. There’s going to be tears, but I hope and pray that there’ll be smiles and laughter.
… be imaginative and throw the net out and let’s see what we catch.
In this workshop Roy uses the poetry of;
Carol Ann Duffy.
Details on buying copies of the cited publications can be found in RELATED LINKS at the end of the workshop post.
Objects to hang our words on – Roy McFarlane Workshop
My Father’s Orrery from The Fetch by Gregory Leadbetter touches on an object that ties father and son together;
My Father’s Orrery
Is without end.
What a beautiful beginning, the title and straight into the poem is without end, the memories of our loved ones, their name goes on; but there’s a warning
The solar system on the fireplace
spins only one planet around it’s sun –
Mercury, as if now the limit
of what we know, hints at the missing
planets to come: the ache in the equation
their absence makes,
Something’s not right, an incompleteness, and the line the ache in the equation their absence makes. No mention of death but we’re feeling the oncoming pain. A poem about an unfinished orrery draws a picture of the man, the relationship between the father and the poet.
And what an ending about this mathematician, astrologist who has probably taught his son about the universe;
With the planet in his hands, he felt
the weight of his loss, knew he had forgotten
how to put the universe together.
Not only a reference to his father’s dementia but an echo of the weight of loss and the falling apart of the universe when we lose our loved ones. Read the whole of My Father’s Orrey and the book.
Hook your poems around the idea of an action, cooking, fishing, knitting, game of chess, let’s have a look at A Man Can Cook from Chick by Hannah Lowe.
You at the stove, the air spiced up with ginger,
nutmeg, clove. I know you won’t turn round
but I can stand here can’t I watch the fire
flaring blue below your pans, your hands
cajoling dumpling, knifing up red snapper,
crushing star anise? You can’t turn around,
too busy with your strange colonial mixtures,
mango roly poly, cocoa bread.
My aunty said ‘Now there’s a man can cook!’
I should have let you teach me, long before
you couldn’t eat, before they sliced a moon
of flesh away from you. Now you’re blurred
by steam. These smells will linger in my hair.
I leave you here then, humming as you stir.
Or maybe a memorable day throwing Frisbees, a ride at an amusement park, or cornflake cake, as you’ll see in My Mother from Every Little Sound by Ruby Robinson
She said the cornflake cake made her day,
she said a man cannot be blamed for being
unfaithful: his heart is not in tune with his
extremities and it’s just the way his body
chemistry is. She said all sorts of things.
And here begins a conversation starting with a cornflake cake as an item that means so much for this memorable day. Loss can be so many things; in this poem similar to other poems within this collection, the poet is looking at the loss of her mother to mental health or the wider implication of being caught up in the system.
In the park, stopped for a cup of tea in a café
where we had the cornflake cake cut into halves
with the handle of a plastic fork. We saw yellow
crocuses growing a ring around a naked tree
These are the memories, the conversation that are universal as well as being personal, giving us minute details, speaking so many things between the line, memorable unforgettable, poems need to be unforgettable to the poet as well as the reader. She tells us more about their day and ends.
She said she’d been talking to Jesus and God
because she didn’t want to go to hell, although,
she said, correctly, we’ve been through hell
already, haven’t we. She said a woman should
know her place, should wait. She lit a cigarette.
And finally Cold from The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy
It felt so cold, the snowball which wept in my hands,
and when I rolled it along in the snow, it grew
till I could sit on it, looking back at home
Snowball weeping in my hands sets us up for what is to come, the cold and snow becomes the vehicle to transport us from good times to bad times, so we’re back at home. Windows blind with ice, breath undressing itself on the air, Carol’s having fun with beautiful descriptions. Have fun with, don’t settle for the old clichés, sit for a while and find something fresh and different. Carol’s feeling cold my toes, burning, cold in my winter boots and she switches to her mother, her hands were cold from peeling and finishing with such beauty.
her daughter’s face, a kiss for both cold cheeks, my cold nose.
But nothing so cold as the February night I opened the door
in the Chapel of Rest where my mother lay, neither young, nor old,
where my lips, returning her kiss to her brow, knew the meaning of cold.
Like a snowball weeping, a cup holding grief, a bible with gold-edged leaves whispering, and I know you’re already thinking of an object that means so much to you and your loved one, but let’s just begin with stretching this object, imbuing it with life, let this object be the vehicle that draws us into your narrative, and then run with it.
The Fetch – Gregory Leadbetter (which was launched at Waterstones last week as part of Birmingham Literature Festival) is available here http://ninearchespress.com/publications/poetry-collections/the%20fetch.html
Chick Hannah Lowe available here http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/product/chick-1055
Every Little Sound Ruby Robinson available here http://liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/products/73653
The Bees Carol Ann Duffy available here https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/carol-ann-duffy/the-bees