Books Magazine

It Sits in the Middle and Knows

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
On Saturday, we Dead Good Poets met for our monthly workshop.  After a fun word game which involved coming up with the most inventive similes (I failed but not miserably as I now have lots of stolen similes - mwah ha ha), David Riley read an excerpt from Seamus Heaney's Seeing Things (XVIII).  The excerpt was written in tercets with a little internal rhyme and, if memory serves, contained ten syllables per line.  The aspect of the poetry which we all observed was the way Heaney managed to allude to magic throughout his narrative of a visiting rope seller without ever overtly naming it.  The devil was very much in the details. 
For our main writing exercise, we set about trying to write short poems in a similar style to Heaney's, i.e. we would have a list of things to include but we should never name them, rather use the details to allude to their existence.  To this end we started by making lists.  I asked everyone to give me one fictional character, location, object and type of magic.  Here are the results:
Fictional characters
  • Mr Pickwick
  • Batman
  • James Bond
  • Raffles (the gentleman thief)
  • Willy Wonka
  • Mr Rochester
  • Madame Bovary
  • Heathcliffe
  • Miss Marple
  • Blackpool
  • Hogwarts
  • Hawaii
  • Andromeda
  • Canada
  • Glasgow
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
  • Coney Island
  • London
  • Chainsaw
  • Blue John Stone
  • Paintbrush
  • Dagger
  • Football
  • Cigarette Lighter
  • Fish Tank
  • Book
  • Quill
Type of Magic
  • Witchcraft
  • Black Magic
  • Close Up Magic
  • Numerology
  • Necromancy
  • Conjuring
  • Wizardry
  • Kaballah
  • Tarot

As I then distributed these in order this meant that someone had to write a poem about a gentleman thief with a dagger on Andromeda using numerology.  Someone else was forced to write a poem about James Bond in Hawaii with a paint brush and close up magic.  Everyone rose to the challenge magnificently, weaving the details in with humour (references to the insertion of a three inch Harris had us in stitches) and beauty (the blood red maple leaves in the Willy Wonka necromancy poem were especially vivid).
There was some talk that I had rigged this challenge as I ended up writing about Miss Marple in London with a quill and tarot.  It does seem a particularly favourable set when compared to Batman at Hogwarts with a piece of Blue John and black magic but the poem which that latter set instigated was so creative that I think I might have preferred something more challenging. 
As I'm not going to be at the open mic event on Friday, I thought I'd share my effort from the workshop.  If you would like to use this exercise to create some poetry, please do.  We'd love to read your work in the comments box.

Divine Mystery
In Whitechapel, hell clings to brick and stone
Grim residue like smog that never lifts
Blue populace wades, ankle deep in death
Behind a window's bubble-spotted eyes
Bone-handled orphans rest in caskets lined
With velvet.  Feathered pens and vessels, cracked.
A desk, marked deep and faded as the day
Is strewn with cups and wands, lovers and wheels
A form, ancient and present, points to change.
Her fingers at the deck, old woman smiles
Reeking of gin and smoke, wrapped tight in tweed
A body's surfaced and she knows the hand.
It sits in the middle and knows

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog