Following on from the earlier workshop ‘Objects to hang our words on’, Roy takes us deeper into exercises and writing in the next session ‘Letters, Phone Calls and Texting’.
This workshop focuses on poetry from Pascale Petit and Roy McFarlane. You are invited to extend on your earlier writing. So take a deep breath and dive in.
Letters, phone calls and texting
Arrival of the Electric Eel from Fauverie by Pascale Petit
Each time I open it I feel like a Matses girl
handed a parcel at the end of her seclusion,
my face pierced by jaguar whiskers
to make me brave.
I know what’s inside – that I must
unwrap the envelope of leaves
until all that’s left
squirming in my hands
is an electric eel.
The positive head, the negative tail,
the rows of batteries under the skin,
the smell, almost blind eyes,
The day turns murky again,
I’m wading through the bottom of my life
when my father’s letter arrives. And keeps on arriving.
The charged fibres of paper
against my shaking fingers,
the thin electroplates of ink.
The messenger drags me up to the surface
to gulp air then flicks its anal fin.
Never before has a letter been so heavy,
growing to two metres in my room,
the address, the phone number, then the numbness
I know you must be surprised, it says,
but I will die soon and want to make contact.
Pascale captures the dread of opening a correspondence, there’s that association with an indigenous girl from the Amazon, a brave Matses girl, the knowledge of knowing and then we have the electric eel. The letter is alive; charged fibres of paper, thin electroplates of ink. Now feel the weight of the letter watch it grow two metres and then the last two lines leave us in turmoil.
The next one is Leaves are falling from my collection Beginning with your last breath. Autumn plays a big part here, the way I guess things slow down when you hear bad news, like leaves falling but for me a storm is coming and you pray that the weather forecasters have got it wrong.
I didn’t notice the leaves falling
the day they told me it would be
weeks more than months.
The rest of their words
fell softly on deaf ground.
I remembered in the morning
they had forecast an oncoming storm,
the tail end of a hurricane
from the Caribbean seas.
What do they know?
They never get things right,
it will never ever reach here.
Take yourself back to the moment you received news about a terminal illness, the passing away of a loved one, somebody moving on or a message via letter, email, friends, or searching through your beloved belongings and you find a message addressed to you. Hold that moment, imagine the feeling, numb, shock, surprised, scared, angry, start writing those feelings, just the feelings, get a thesaurus and explore the feelings, look at its root meaning, the etymology of the word you’re playing with. (15 mins writing) Now think of an animal, weather, or nature inhabit their essence, their very being, imagine every nuance you can think of, don’t link the two together yet, just keep writing (15 mins) Now you should have two A4 writing of notes, (I’m joking, a few lines are just as good). Now put the two together, hopefully you’ve been bursting to correlate the two things to make your poem.
Beginning with your last Breath by Roy McFarlane – buy a copy here
Fauverie by Pascale Petit – buy a copy here