Surprising yourself with Cliff Yates at the Swindon Festival of Poetry

3 Oct

I guess the most surprising thing about this poetry writing session was that I managed to write four pieces.

I wasn’t surprised about the range of poetry written by people – some wonderful, some in need of work, Cliff offering advice. We were asked: who would we like to be? Where did we visit? Who was the surprising guest? And: there is/are plenty of – what in my house? We were prompted to observe and record the surprising details to bring alive our verse.

I am always worried (but not surprised) at a smile response at my work. That says: yep, that doesn’t stir any emotion, or, sorry what were you saying? It was so boring I forgot it instantly. I could interpret it as: ‘that’s perfect as it is’. But that wouldn’t get me anywhere. Next time perhaps I’ll write something really atrocious and see what happens. Or maybe that smile is the ‘really atrocious’ response?

Neuroses aside, I am left with a question. Surprisingly for me I was reticent to talk. I looked around the room, at the quality of poets present, and felt I would waste everyone’s writing time if I asked why the poem Cliff had read to us by way of example, was actually a poem. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but it looked like flash fiction with really short lines. Answers on a postcard.

Props to Cliff though – prompts and space to write. Suggestions to do your own thing. Not expectations of form or the such like. And a top piece of advice for newly scribed work? Lose the last two lines.

And for anyone who’s interested, here’s one inspired by the surprising visitor. Totally true, y’all:

The Morning After

There we were
Lying around, pyjama clad
Fuggy voiced
Toxic sweat.

The phone rang. ‘Sorry I couldn’t make it last night.
Could I take you up on the offer of coffee? It’s Peter, your neighbour.
Can I come now?’
A brief pause. Sticky sweat trickles. ‘Okay.’
He asks: ‘Do you have fags?’

I put down the phone.
My eyes widen.
‘Hey! Get up! Pete Doherty’s coming round!’

There we were
Lying around, clothes clad
Fuggy voiced
Toxic sweat.

Two hours later I give up, cleanse body and mouth.

Half an hour later,
I’m defugged and detoxed, ready to greet our notorious celebrity neighbour.
‘You’ve missed him,’ says the Other Pete. He holds out a compact camera.
A fuggy, toxic sweat-looking man wearing black and a trilby clutches my baby boy.
Pete drank coffee. I berate the Other Pete for turning it Irish.
He asks: ‘Shall we stick the mug on Ebay?’

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