Stanza 2014: Voicing the Past - their wars, your words

Stanza 2014: Voicing the Past - their wars, your words

Jenny Lewis

A half day poetry workshop with Jenny Lewis, giving a chance to develop poetical knowledge and skills

This was a first for me and, as it turned out, a very enjoyable experience in trying to forge a poem by thinking about war and its impact on a person close to me. It was also a friendly and collaborative experience with the others in the group, many of whom wrote poetry on a regular basis.

A group of us met at MUSA’s stores on North Street where we were shown some of the university’s art collection, including pieces painted to record Scotland during WWII. Then we went to MUSA to get stuck into our workshop. We were directed by Jenny Lewis, a poet and tutor at Oxford University. She started us off with a short presentation about her own research entitled ‘Finding My Father in Mesopotamia’. Jenny's father had been killed in action when she was only a few months old. She spoke about where to find resources for doing research and about how touching objects associated with your subject can help your creativity. We also looked at war-themed artefacts including weapons gathered from societies around the world, and a piece of shrapnel that fell on St Andrew’s during a bombing raid. We each had to choose an artefact and describe it, making a prose poem about it... I choose a Patu Onewa, a stone club used by a Maori long ago.

Jenny gave us thinking tasks in five minute bursts, including what we had heard our parents say about WWII, and how their individual stories linked to the wider world. We also thought about and jotted down what we would miss the most if we lost certainties such as the changing seasons and birdsong. Then we had to describe the thoughts we might have if we could hear the sounds of battle, and adjectives to describe them. Finally we had to think of metaphors to describe an abstract emotion (I choose panic). Each member of the group read out their metaphors and we all tried to guess what abstract emotion they were conjuring up. This exercise helped each of us get in touch with how we felt about war. Then we were left to get on with composing our poems.

I would like to do another workshop as it was a creative and stimulating afternoon... so roll on next year and Stanza 2015.