Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Things You Do For Poetry


What do you do when you wish you were writing poetry but are not doing it? You go to Poetry Workshops; not the grown-up kind where you workshop poems you have already written but the kind where you do things of an amusing/serious and playful/contemplative nature. You go in order to help the words and ideas that are hovering above your head to find form and incarnate. Or you go because you haven’t got any words or ideas and you hope you will get some from the workshop. You are up for anything: making things with cardboard and sticky-back plastic, conversing with inanimate objects and pretending you are Frankenstein’s mistress or Cinderella’s left slipper. It’s all good. You don’t come away with a clutch of poems in your hand but you feel again that life is pregnant with possibility.

Looking through notebooks long after the event is a like going back and being a fly on the wall. I felt that yesterday when I came across stuff I had set down at a workshop several years ago. Someone got up and mimed the words of a poem we had not yet seen and our task was to write something based on her performance. The poem was "Don't Let That Horse" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Our task was to translate her mime into words. I wrote:

Ride off with me.
Bring nothing but the clothes you wear
and bring your violin.
Get rid of him.

I have a place, it isn’t much
but I will make it fine
with fresh organic soup and wine,
and you will play the violin and sing.
And just get rid of him.

It’s not too late to grasp the nettle –
firmly, love, then it won’t sting.

The thing is, apparently Chagall never did paint anything with that title. But today, after re-reading, I came across Equestrienne (and yess, I have learned how to post pictures). I will be the first to admit that my words may not be a contender for the National or any other poetry competition. But I think I may have stumbled on something in the painting that Ferlinghetti’s poem refers to. There is definitely a violin under the horse’s chin. The grasping the nettle bit was my own flourish, nothing to do with the mime. 'Sing' and 'sting' make a cheeky little rhyme.

The workshop was held in a fabulously done-up flat right next to, and overlooking, the Thames. I think I enjoyed the day, could have sworn I did. But somewhere at the end of the notes, apropos of nothing I can connect to, I have written:

the room grows colder
my heart also

I may have been pretending to be Snow White’s wicked stepmother.

I have got that word in again.

4 comments:

That's so pants said...

I think violins are a constant theme with Chagall but, whatever - I love this poem!

Reading the Signs said...

yes, now you mention it, but I think Equestrienne was the one F's poem referred to. This is the first time I have seen it though.

in at the deep end said...

hello Signs, I'm still trying to respond to your last post, specifically - can you supply bits of magic wood, perhaps from yr forest? I need one for me and a few spares for friends.

Reading the Signs said...

deep end, this is so a symptom of the Times we live in - thinking stuff like that can be "supplied". Go wander in the forest, dear, like I had to. And take good care. (Bless me, what do they teach them these days?)