I closed roads to cars leading into my heart and have found more space for couples to stroll and kids to mark the streets with chalk birds and lions. The number of people whispering secrets has also increased three-fold, but that may be from more people meeting without needing to not pause. I may begin closing my heart’s skies to plane traffic, just because I’d like to hear the sun’s motors whirring again.
The final guest of the first series of the Poetry Non-Stop podcast is Alex Russell, an imaginative and often unpredictable poet and performer in Norwich. He will be discussing some of his innovative works and how you can use poetry to make a living. Here he is in action at The Bird Cage in Norwich.
This week’s guest is Avouleance who talks about creativity and living with autism. This is a poem they wrote in about 20 minutes during a writing group I run. If you’re a writer based in or near Norwich you can get details here. You can find out more about Avouleance here.
There’s a better me Full of energy That I’ve abandoned Not intentionally but automatically Now I’m less bright eyed Less blind But I’d leave all I’ve learnt behind To be a fraction as kind Or inclined to look up.
In this episode Jenny Pagdin talks about her experiences of post-natal psychosis which she explores in her pamphlet Caldbeck. She discusses how poetry can convey the inexpressible and reads a few poems. She also sets an exercise for writing a gratitude poem.
Jenny’s writing exercise
“Gratitude can come in many forms, some purer than others, including appreciation, relief, obligation, awe and intimacy. You may want to add to this list. The exercise I have set out below is designed to be taken slowly.”
1) For three days, keep a gratitude diary. Each day, list at least three things you feel grateful for. It doesn’t matter who you’re grateful to, this isn’t a religious practice and doesn’t require any beliefs. Research shows that noting down what we’re grateful for makes us happier and is not a bad habit to follow every now and then.
2) Read some odes (praise poems) like Keats’s Ode on a Grecian Urn or Pablo Neruda’s Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market.
3) Think of the last time something made you happy – can you feel grateful to anyone (or to the universe at large) for this? If possible, talk with a friend about what made you happy.
4) When you feel ready, start mapping out a gratitude map using pen and paper (think spider diagram). Drawing is fine too.
5) Wait until the moment takes you for this stage – I don’t think you can write a gratitude poem without being genuinely grateful. When you’re ready, use your map to develop a poem, letting the thing(s) you are grateful for lead the form you use. Some tricks that have helped me in the past are to think about odes, hymns and list poems – but you may have different ideas. Good luck!
When you have written a poem please share for the chance to be published on the website or featured on the podcast. You can send poems by email here, share them in the comments section of this post or share them on social media using #poetrynonstop.
Born in High Wycombe to a British-Lebanese family, Jenny Pagdin studied BA English at Oxford University and MA Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. Her pamphlet Caldbeck, which tells the story of her postnatal psychosis, was published by Eyewear in 2017, shortlisted for the Mslexia pamphlet competition and listed by the Poetry Book Society. John Redmond said that “After reading these inward, psychologically acute poems, the reader is likely to be haunted for some time.” Pagdin won the Café Writers Norfolk prize 2017 (“lovely dark stuff!” – Liz Berry) and was longlisted for the Rebecca Swift Foundation Women’s Poetry Prize 2018. In addition to mental health, Pagdin is drawn to metaphysical, parenting and relationship themes. Her work is often concerned with extreme or indescribable states, Hopkins’ “no-man-fathomed” mountains in the mind. She is working on a new collection to include supernatural themes and has an interest in the meeting points between shared and other ‘realities’.
She is an active member of the Norwich Stanza and regularly gives readings locally and in London. As well as writing poetry, Pagdin is a fundraiser, mother, wife, Reiki student and occasional crafter.
Martin Figura was, and still is, a poet of great wit and humour but beneath the laughter lay memories of a troubled childhood and a dark secret that very few people knew until he started to write about it.
On this episode Martin talks about how writing about the death of his mother at the hands of his father was the beginning of a journey that changed him as a writer. The result was some of his strongest work in the acclaimed collection and show Whistle.
During a wide ranging discussion covering art, literature, photography and social history, Martin explains how he approached writing about this tragic episode using metaphor to reflect feelings and personal experiences.
Martin’s writing exercise: Think of an event that you’ve found too challenging to write about, or have simply not successfully written from. Come up with an abstract noun for the emotion the event evokes in you, such as blame, shame, anger, joy etc. Then make it concrete, a thing or creature or person and write about it, using some detail from your event.
On the podcast Martin reads the poem Sloth by Stephen Dobyns which is based on this technique and Patrick responds with a poem which uses flamingos to talk about feelings of isolation and struggling to fit in.
Please send responses via email, post in the comments section below or share on social media with the hashtag #poetrynonstop.
This week poet and film studies and creative writing lecturer Sue Burge talks about her love of film and poetry and where the two meet. She shares some of her poems which blend classic film imagery, scenes from real life and her vivid imagination and sets a writing exercise that encourages you to take the director’s chair as you look back on your life.
Sue has a busy schedule of writing workshops and courses. You can find out more about these and her two poetry collections on her website www.sueburge.uk
Sue’s writing exercise:
Choose a scene/incident from your life and write about it in black and white. Give it a vintage film feel. This is your first stanza, it can be as long or short as you like. For your second stanza, remake the incident/scene in colour – make the language/tone different from the first part, give it a more contemporary feel. You could, for example, do the black and white scene from a child’s point of view and the colour scene from an adult point of view with the benefit of hindsight.
Please send responses via email, post in the comments section below or share on social media with the hashtag #poetrynonstop
Sue Burge lives in North Norfolk. Her poems have appeared in a wide range of publications such as Mslexia, Orbis, Brittle Star, The LampeterReview, Magma, The French Literary Review, The North,Stride and Ink, Sweat and Tears. Her debut pamphlet, Lumière, was published by Hedgehog Press in 2018 and her first collection, In the Kingdom of Shadows, was published by Live Canon, also in 2018. Sue has undertaken a variety of poetry commissions and has performed and read her work extensively. As well as face-to-face courses locally she runs a very successful writing course by e-mail subscription, The Writing Cloud. More information at http://www.sueburge.uk