Poetry & Writing, The Cork Board

Political with a small ‘p’

I’ve recently been trying to maintain a habit of writing every day. Whether it be free writing, poetry, my journal (though I don’t keep that every day ) my travel book – yep, I’m working on one of those too, and less often at the moment, this blog.

With the writing comes lots of reading too. One generates the other, of course.
This focus has arisen from the Creative Writing course that Mrs. Monkey and I undertook in the Spring. The initial idea of attending was to distract my hard working wife from the daily grind for just a couple of hours a week, and it did. And though she can’t spend the time continuing to practice what we have learned she has been given the confidence to write more for pleasure rather the Board! Which is how we ended up spending lots of time at the poetry festival and taking part in the workshops there.

Federico Garcia Lorca

I could never understand how writers worked when I would hear them comment that they would start their day at a set time every day and write and then stop, relax, repeat. Similarly when they might comment that a character surprised them or they didn’t know where a story might go. But now I think I get it. I have learned the adventure of free writing. Stream of consciousness go anywhere no editing pour it out for a time period stop. Indeed, where you end up is out of your control if you want it to be and the ideas bank, for now at least, is growing like weeds in our veg patch.

We booked our places with Daljit Nagra (see previous post) for a workshop on political poetry. Right up our street. Daljit’s work is political but you are required to put the thinking in.
A couple of points from the workshop, Daljit’s view anyway;
1. Try to include the other point of view in some way (hm, that’s gonna be tough) because a poem written from only one point of view only gets read once, generally.
2. Political poems don’t have to be obvious and if there is humour they will stick.

With that in mind, and with the “Starting Pistol” approach to writing freshly imprinted on our minds we listed 5 of the big issues and then 5 of the more specific ones that bothered us. Two lists of three minutes on each.

Then we were given 15 minutes to write a poem on one of them. 15 minutes – ready , steady, GO. The key was to just pour it out , no editing, get the thing down and work on it later. In fact, we were encouraged to write as it came and not to worry about grammar, spelling, anything but the thought. Even being encouraged to make it as bad as possible. Is this playing with the ingredients?

So here is my mine, no rework, no editing, based on a true incident told to me by a South African friend and taking place under apartheid in the 80’s.



Red      Volkswagen parked at the lights
another day in the routine another radio station
running late who know maybe
don’t sit here too long       lights on red      red stares holding you in a
moment of tender tension as the heat lights the smell of cooking from rusty
he’s no friend of yours this light holding you while
you begin to twitch and check the corners
for the bad guys the black guys your Mother
told you about
you try not to show your
fear your nervousness and finger your pistol in the door well

The door is wrenched your body is wrenched
hands grab and grip where they shouldn’t   pulling    dragging
stunned you’re dragging and yelling
they’re black hands your Mother told you
your fears swell like dough rising

You are dropped here the dragging stops
you check the faces those black faces
your Mother told you
you sit in the dust road
dust dirt and smoke
it’s then that you see the fire
and your car lights with the flames of the fear you felt
and your heart sighs as your car dies
you lived
your Mother didn’t tell you

You get the idea. It needs work, of course, but the story is down and workable.

With time tight we were then given the task of writing a humorous poem. Five minutes… ready, steady, GO.

Bells ring

Bell rings

There are only 3 of them but they’re not talking.
You didn’t ring, she said, and she was right. That’s the point.
So now they’re not talking.
She No. 2 sides with The Chosen One and she
who begat the Chosen One says he didn’t ring so
now  no-one rings. And no-one is talking.
Mrs.Bell slams the phone down and
shouts at the cat ‘ever since Alexander became a star’.
and then at the phone – ‘Damn thing !’

Are they political? Are the ideas political? I may ditch them completely but two ‘poems’ exist after 20 minutes where none did before. Writing, it would seem, is work – just when I thought I could gaze at the clouds all day waiting for inspiration to strike.

I learned a lot and I certainly have a lot to think about. The politics can be under the skin of the thing.

And finally, I found this – I think it’s great. Let’s get up there…

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