Last night I was the MC for ‘A Poem and A Pint’. The guest poet was my lovely friend David Tait, who did an absolute blinder of a reading. I particularly enjoyed hearing his new poems in the second half – it will be really exciting to see them go out and make their mark on the world!
In the afternoon I ran an ‘Editing and Redrafting’ workshop at Barrow Library with five brave souls. I think two of the participants had been to a few workshops before, but they had not had the opportunity to have their own work critiqued. The first hour we looked at general editing techniques and the last hour and a half was spent looking at each person’s poem. I was impressed with the level of quality of the work, but also the way that the participants, some of whom had never showed their work to another person before, responded to feedback in an open and positive way. They were also great at giving each other feedback, which made my job easy!
Plans are now afoot for a whole day workshop at Barrow Library, probably after the summer holidays, so watch this space!
Today’s Sunday poem is by Myra Schneider, from her new collection ‘What Women Want’. I first met Myra at a workshop that she was running in Lancaster – then a couple of months later I went to another workshop of hers in Ulverston. Myra has a great energy and it was a pleasure to talk with her on the few occasions we’ve met.
‘What Women Want’ has at its heart a long sequence exploring the life of Caroline Norton (1808-1877), whose enforced seperation from her children by her husband led her to campaign tirelessly for a change in the law. The poem is too long to post the whole of it on here, and I didn’t feel I would be doing the poem justice by just posting a section of it – the real power comes from reading it all the way through and letting the narrative unfold. I found it quite shocking – this didn’t happen that long ago – and I think it is a work of great importance – a piece of our history that I should have already known about. To my shame, I’d never heard of Caroline Norton before, so I found the poem very informative.
Anyway, the poem I’ve chosen is the first poem from the collection, which is called ‘The Composition Hut’. I thought this fitted nicely with the Caroline Norton introduction – because although the poet is writing about the composer Grieg’s composition hut, the tone of the poem reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’.
There is obviously the hut which was Grieg’s ‘room of one’s own’ but there is also Myra’s description of her thoughts ‘slippery as eels travelling below the surface’.
If you would like to order ‘What Women Want’ or find out more about Myra, her website is www.esch.dircon.uk
The pamphlet is £6.95 and published by Second Light Publications and can be ordered direct from the website www.secondlightlive.co.uk
THE COMPOSITION HUT-Myra Schneider
Fairytale: the fierce slope of the roof, the pines,
the lake, so it’s easy to fold up this century,
its quick screens, its cables packed under streets.
Now is this green and blue silence, the hut
at the foot of the hill where Grieg worked.
I can almost see his newly-hatched shoals
of crochets and quavers. So why am I holding back?
The door’s unlocked – once inside wouldn’t my ideas
flow. No, I’d be beguiled by the spears of light
rising from the silkgrey water, by the voice urging
the rowers in that boat and I’d float to yesterday
when I saw a lifetime of waterfalls, mountains clad
with firs all pointing at ever. Lulled, I’d believe
the future safe, let littlefish words evade my fingers…
Months on, the composition hut is still in my head.
It’s a hermitage where I could uncover layers of self
but does self have any meaning on its own?
I have no answer, only know I need the pines,
the lake of serenity, the idea of the hut as a retreat
or a perching place, at least, for my soul
where I can begin to face the discomposure
of composing and, undistracted, follow the thoughts
slippery as eels travelling beneath the surface,
let them lead me to the disruption and pain
beyond the trees. For when I shut off the outer tick
I find myself listening to the quickening beat
of this dear planet as if it were my own heart’s clock.
Grieg’s Composition Hut at Troldhaugen
(from What Women Want Second Light Publications 2012)