Despite a serious decline in my health, I was determined that come hell or high water (and believe me the water got pretty high due to a lack of trains, a mix up with taxis and my own acute respiratory problems) I was going to make it to London to work with a Poet I greatly admire, Raymond Antrobus.
I felt that this workshop had come at exactly the right time as I had been unable to write poetry for several months. This caused me a great deal of distress and frustration. Writing was and still is a huge part of my life and personality. I consider it a gift, a way of expressing an honesty and sense of emotion that I struggle to convey through everyday common speech. For me, poetry is precious, pure, and part of what makes my soul ignite. Sometimes I still laugh to myself, as it used to be something I hid away in cupboards because I was so hung up on whether it was ‘any good’.
Now, a few years on, as I spiral in and out of the void (often clinging to each word as I drift) I see poetry as something less hierarchical and more as a form of accessing fragments of emotion and memory. I have also learned the importance of finding my dog, a realisation I could have only ever come to after doing a workshop with Raymond.
Wait…What does finding a dog have to do with writing poetry you may ask? Has she gone insane? Maybe… but that’s for another blog post and another day. Once we had written our drafts, Raymond asked us all to draw a dog. After this, we all noticed that in the absence of further instruction, we had all drawn a different kind of dog, meaning we all had a different vision. Refining this vision, or to put it more simply, finding the language that makes your work yours and then bringing it to life through poetry is the key.
Your dog is the detail. Meaning it is a vital part of the redrafting process and therefore an essential aspect of your individual poetic identity. It is bought to life in the redraft as you tease out its coat and make it smooth and shiny. This is a process that only the Poet themselves can truly visualise by revisiting the questions, ideas and images that they began to explore before starting to shape the poem into its format.
Without giving too much away about these elements, we questioned the nature of a particular emotion (I chose patience) its presence in a variety of contexts, and also completed the all-important sentence I must write because….This made me realise my core motivation and I recommend that every Poet should try it.
Raymond also emphasised another really important aspect for me in terms of creating and asserting a poetic identity. Our society (namely Capitalism) goes against the very nature of what poetry is and does for us. Therefore, we must protect what we need in order to write. I felt this was a very astute and wise observation and wish to take Raymond’s advice one step further…We must continue to find space in this shattered world for our poems to live, breathe, sit and be heard.
Unfortunately, we are now occupying a space which allows unelected over-promoted saturated bath toys like Boris Johnson to suspend parliament and destroy our democratic rights. In these times our words need to be written, read, and heard through every literal and metaphorical fire that burns around us, otherwise the ashes will melt into the concrete of privilege and nothing good will ever rise from them.
Happy writing Everyone!
For any readers who are interested a draft of the poem I wrote in the workshop is shown below. I am hoping I will be able to improve it further.
(Draft one and a half – I’ve done a bit of work on it already)
There’s a painful line of patience I tread
its thread non-linear
backed up in a spider’s web
the burning in my head a time bomb without a name
the sun accepts the moon shall rise as the no cure bandage lessens licking the lidocaine of life leaving death to read my footnotes –
maybe he’s not bored enough yet?
I need to try harder
blacken by the ink of roman numerals running dry my past path fades
my lungs struggle, struggle with the repetition, the repetition of the rhythm, the repetition of the rhythm of breathing – just – breathing
heart beating again, softly, oddly ahead of itself, rushing…
my crushing coughing constant like the ring of a doorbell with a Wife’s death forgotten
the door closes again
then breathing – Just breathing – Just…
these patterns are persistent, putrid, and plain
they are the very ends we chase
in the name of life and death
© By Kay Channon
Raymond Antrobus’ awarding winning collection can be found here: http://www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk/index.php/2018/09/the-perseverance/
The Poetry workshop I attended was part of London’s Southbank Out-Spoken festival series. For more information visit:
You can find out more about Raymond at: http://www.raymondantrobus.com/
Follow him on Twitter: @RaymondAntrobus
Follow me on Twitter: @KayChannon
You can purchase my first poetry collection The Dark Side of Light here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Side-Light-Kay-Channon/dp/0993069517/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+dark+side+of+light+Kay+Channon&qid=1567370780&s=books&sr=1-1
I have work published here too: