1 Oct


Maggie Harris Workshop

I’m not a fan of workshops; they are usually just an excuse for me to buy a new Moleskine which I will then abandon the next day.

I’ve been to some great workshops, but I’ve also experienced four-hour sessions of Poetry By Numbers which have made me want to chew my arm off.

So it was with some trepidation and a clam shut mind that I racked up to the Savernake Social Hall for two hours with poet Maggie Harris.

The fact that Maggie didn’t start with ‘What’s your name?’ or ‘Tell us all about your writing experience’ got my interest straight away.

By starting with a sequence of her favourite poems, we were straight into poetry and listening to the work of Grace Nicholls and Jean Binta Breeze.

‘The fat black woman sits on the golden stool.’

‘When it comes to fashion the choice is lean.’

are two lines from Nicholls which stuck with me throughout the morning.

Binta Breeze offered up ‘There’s a blackbird in my mango tree’ which in turn made Wallace Stevens and his multiple views of a different blackbird walk into the room.

Maggie Harris’ poetry featured a ‘conch dripping with salt-water and a ‘bird dreaming of Fandango’.

Maggie’s warm personality and inclusive style provided the perfect environment to tackle the exercise she set.

She got me writing about my socks, the hole in the toe and the view across the Main Square in Cusco, Peru.

The loose theme of the workshop was ‘Journey’ and one exercise was to imagine a journey by an inanimate object (hence the socks), Jacci Bullman wrote from the point of view of her Celtic Knot necklace as it bounced on her clavicle (great word).

Interesting for a group of angst-ridden versifiers most people wrote about footwear, the furthest point from those centre of emotion the head and the heart.

Another exercise looked and similies and metaphors and our last challenge was to describe what we can see from a balcony, harking back to the verandah poems of Jean Binta Breeze where we started out.

In these exercises, Mark Farley managed to find the ‘arse crack of God’ and Anna-May Laugher caught a glimpse of ‘dimpled buttocks’ from a balcony.

Me? I was busy deciding which colour Moleskine to get for Andrew McMillan’s workshop next week.
Maggie Harris’ workshop, at Savernake Street Social Hall, Swindon, 30 September 2016, was part of Poetry Swindon Festival.

Chronicle written by Michael Scott. 

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