poetry

The Curious Cats Sessions

curious-cat

Do you need to analyse poems?

Yes.

Well, learn this sentence:

“All curious cats think mice smell lovely, don’t you think?”

Why?

Because, if you do, you will be one step closer to remembering all the stuff your teacher asks you to write about when it comes to a poem.

How come?

It’s a mnemonic.

Oh, OK ..

A ll – A uthor

C urious – C ontext

C ats – C ontent

Th ink – Th eme

M ice – M ood

S mell – S tructure

L ovely – L anguage

Don’t you think? – Reader response

Cool!

So, when you’re analysing a poem, you can do it by working out the answers to questions like these:

All – Author

Who wrote the poem? When did the poet live? Where? What was his or her childhood like? What did they do apart from write? Did they write other stuff?

Curious – Context

When was the poem written? What was happening in that place at that time? What is the poet’s perspective on these places and events, and the characters involved? What was the general public’s perspective on these things at the time? Have these views changed since the poem was written?

Cats – Content

What is the poem actually about? Does it describe something? Does it tell a story? What places or characters are mentioned? What do we know about them? Is there a literal and also a metaphorical or allegorical meaning to the poem?

Think – Theme

If you can answer the last question in the Cats section, you will already be thinking about the themes that are dealt with in the poem. Does the poem have an overall subject or topic? What is it? Does it have more than one? Does the poem have a message for the reader? What does the poet want the reader to think? What does the poet want the reader to feel?

Mice – Mood

And if you can answer that, you are ready to start thinking about what it actually is that the poet actually does to convey all of the above to the reader.

Is the poem dark or light? What situations, places, characters, phrases or words make it that way? Does it make you laugh, cry, think, cringe? Why? Is this how the poet wanted you to feel?

What other things has the poet done to influence the way the reader feels?

Smell – Structure

Is it long? Does it have stanzas? How many? Are they all the same length? Are the lines all the same length or are they different? Is there a pattern to the stanzas or the lines?

Does it rhyme? is there a particular rhyme scheme? What is it?

Is the poem a sonnet, or a ballad, or even something as weird and obscure as a villanelle (not likely, but ..)? How do you know? Why did the writer choose this type of poem? Was it a popular or common type of poem at the time? Is it popular now?

Has the writer made the poem this way for any particular reason? Does the structure of the poem do anything to enhance the message or the themes of the poem?

Lovely – Language

What emotive words has the poet used? Are they adjectives? Are they adverbs? Does the poet use alliteration, repetition, personification, enjambment or any other fancy poetic devices to help us understand the poem’s message and feel the poem’s feelings?

Don’t you think? – Reader response

Do you like it? Why? Why not? Who would like it? Why? Who definitely wouldn’t like it? Why not? Are particular types of people more likely to like it than others? Did more people like it when it was written than now? Why? Why not? Will people like it in the future? Why? Why not?

2-curious-cats

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The Cardboard Library

girl moon umbrella butterflies adana1The Cardboard Library sessions are creative writing development sessions.

Participants are led through a series of stimulating journeys, both real and virtual, which form the catalyst for poetry, flash fiction and short story writing. The products from these sessions are collated and presented by The Safe House as The Cardboard Library, a hand-made occasional ‘magazine’ showcasing new creative writing talent.

italian dog logoIf you are interested in participating in these sessions, either as an attendee or facilitator, or both (!), just fill in the form below and we will get back to you with details of how to be involved in this part of the work of The Safe House.

Left Luggage

The Left Luggage project is based around a series of walkshop events comprising:

  • poetry reading.
  • local sights and landmarks.
  • walking, talking, discovery and writing.cat on the luggage

The Left Luggage sessions involve walks in the outdoors, poetry readings and discussion. They focus on understanding, analysis, comparison and appreciation of poetry as well as offering an opportunity to read and hear poetry in the fresh air.

These sessions could be particularly useful for anybody who is working towards GCSE or A Level English Literature qualifications.

Of course, practice in understanding poetry for national qualifications is not the only benefit of the Left Luggage sessions  and we are sure that they will inspire participants to seek out more poetry and maybe even write some too!

italian dog logoIf you are interested in participating in these sessions either as an  attendee or facilitator, or both (!), or if you would like to discuss developing your own sessions as part of the Left Luggage series, just fill in the form below and we will get back to you with details of how to be involved in this part of the work of The Safe House.

Rhyme in Dylan Thomas’s The Hunchback in the Park

The hunchback in the park
A solitary mister
Propped between trees and water
From the opening of the garden lock
That lets the trees and water enter
Until the Sunday sombre bell at dark
 
Eating bread from a newspaper
Drinking water from the chained cup
That the children filled with gravel
In the fountain basin where I sailed my ship
Slept at night in a dog kennel
But nobody chained him up.
 
Like the park birds he came early
Like the water he sat down
And Mister they called Hey mister
The truant boys from the town
Running when he had heard them clearly
On out of sound
 
Past lake and rockery
Laughing when he shook his paper
Hunchbacked in mockery
Through the loud zoo of the willow groves
Dodging the park keeper
With his stick that picked up leaves.
 
And the old dog sleeper
Alone between nurses and swans
While the boys among willows
Made the tigers jump out of their eyes
To roar on the rockery stones
And the groves were blue with sailors
 
Made all day until bell time
A woman figure without fault
Straight as a young elm
Straight and tall from his crooked bones
That she might stand in the night
After the locks and chains
 
All night in the unmade park
After the railings and shrubberies
The birds the grass the trees the lake
And the wild boys innocent as strawberries
Had followed the hunchback
To his kennel in the dark.

The Hunchback in the Park

Cwmdonkin-2014-4 orderly


Structure, form, whatever ..?


Seven six line stanzas. Straight up! Shows routine. Even in the midst of the disaster that is his world, the hunchback in the park still shows the human need to seek out order in the chaos. Dylan Thomas knew about this. He chose to write the poem this way to show that there will still be order, even in a life as adrift from the rest of humanity as the hunchback’s.

Mr Bruff talks for ages here about Simon Armitage’s Clown Punk and other poems, but then he does say some stuff about the structure of THITP* – His analysis of THITP starts at 07:56 and he reminds us how the poem is, on closer inspection, structured in a much less ordered way than other poems like, for example, The Ruined Maid, On a Portrait of a Deaf Man or Give.

He also reminds us that it is important to link structure to meaning when we are thinking about a poem. Thomas deliberately chose a random rhyme scheme within an apparently ordered structure of stanzas to highlight the routine of the hunchback’s life, but also the instability that he has to live with.

Cwmdonkin_Park trees


Character and Voice, yeh ..


Because, when we look closer, we can clearly see that the order in this character’s life does not go very deep. It is true that, at first glance, there is structure in his world and in the poem, but when we look a bit more carefully we find that the character is struggling to keep it together. At the same time, if we consider the structure of the poem again, we see that the poet is aware of this and angry, perhaps, at the way the park visitors treat this man and, maybe, at how society treats the vulnerable in its midst.

Minimal punctuation and enjambment give an impression of restlessness and almost constant movement, but movement that is driven by random needs. There is a rhyme scheme, but this is random too, and some of the words don’t even rhyme properly.

Thomas chooses his words deliberately to give us an idea of the way the hunchback lives, forever teetering on the edge; cold, hungry, alone, scared, in danger ..


Language – Who’s talking? How?


Third person, eh? Gives a perspective that almost ‘tells’ us how to feel. We should feel sympathy for the hunchback. He is shunned by all elements of society and we should be ashamed of the way he is treated. How did he get like this? What is his history? We can only imagine these things, but Thomas’s use of language and imagery make it clear that we should feel sorry for him.


What’s it about? – On the surface ..


Tea cosy pete COJS56787815

Well, duh .. a homeless guy, innit .. and how all visitors to the park turn their backs on him or even actively get rid of him, kind of assuming it’s somehow his own fault or even if it isn’t his fault, thinking that if they associate with him they’ll somehow become ‘infected’.

The hunchback shuffles around the park every day, trying not to be too conspicuous because he knows that everyone he comes across will want him gone. And even when it gets dark and the schoolchildren, the mothers, the nannies, the nurses, the sailors, the park keeper have all gone, he needs to keep his wits about him, in the dark at night. Who knows what might happen. He even imagines that a tall statue in the park might protect him against whatever dangers there might be ..


What’s it about? – Themes ..


Again, not hard to understand in the twenty-first century. Homelessness is rife; as individuals, we can be cruel and uncaring; as a society, we tend to look the other way. We often don’t take the time to understand and know people who are less fortunate than ourselves.

GCSE Bitesize sez ..

People, especially children, can be very cruel. There is not one example of the man going out of his way to be unkind or rude to anyone. He gets annoyed and angry when the children tease him – which is exactly what they want.

We should not judge people simply on what they look like. This man is and looks different. We get the sense that this is why he is alone in the park, not for anything he might have done. This is sad to think.

Morals. The final picture of the man – who is regarded as so worthless that we never know his name – retreating to his kennel in the dark is tragic, and provides a damning moral comment on society failing those who need care.’

GCSE Bitesize on THITP


It looks like this ..


The hunchback in the park
A solitary mister
Propped between trees and water
From the opening of the garden lock
That lets the trees and water enter
Until the Sunday sombre bell at dark.
 
Eating bread from a newspaper
Drinking water from the chained cup
That the children filled with gravel
In the fountain basin where I sailed my ship
Slept at night in a dog kennel
But nobody chained him up.
 
Like the park birds he came early
Like the water he sat down
And Mister they called Hey mister
The truant boys from the town
Running when he had heard them clearly
On out of sound
 
Past lake and rockery
Laughing when he shook his paper
Hunchbacked in mockery
Through the loud zoo of the willow groves
Dodging the park keeper
With his stick that picked up leaves.
 
And the old dog sleeper
Alone between nurses and swans
While the boys among willows
Made the tigers jump out of their eyes
To roar on the rockery stones
And the groves were blue with sailors
 
Made all day until bell time
A woman figure without fault
Straight as a young elm
Straight and tall from his crooked bones
That she might stand in the night
After the locks and chains
 
All night in the unmade park
After the railings and shrubberies
The birds the grass the trees the lake
And the wild boys innocent as strawberries
Had followed the hunchback
To his kennel in the dark.


It sounds like this ..


This is a reading of the poem by Dylan Thomas himself. He puts on one of those old-fashioned poetry reading voices that sometimes sound a bit irritating these days.

This is a more modern reading of the poem by Martin Sheen. The film was produced to celebrate the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth in 2014. It was directed by Bram Ttwheam.


The Poet


The Granger Collection - TopFoto

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) – Yup, he only lived to be 39. He was from South Wales but wrote in English. He left school at 16 to work in journalism and published his first book of poetry, 18 Poems, in 1934. He lived a wild, alcohol-fuelled life which continued as he became famous. He was a popular speaker because of his deep, rich Welsh voice and was famous for being a kind of stereotypical maverick poet.  He died on a trip to the USA in 1953 after a heavy drinking session.


What do you think?


Go here for a This IS The Safe House Flash Fiction Writing Session based on The Hunchback in the Park.


trees above duck

*The Hunchback in the Park

The River God

river mimram httpwwwwalkingbritaincoukm14140201.jpg


Structure, form, whatever ..?


The poem flows like a river, sometimes quickly sometimes meandering along. A single long stanza, if you like, where the lines float and swirl into pools, through a weir and flow “merrily” downstream in rhyming couplets until reaching an abrupt and deadly end.

Mr Bruff has a bit to say about structure here.

He compares Simon Armitage’s Give and Stevie Smith’s The River God in terms of structure and then goes on to a detailed analysis of the structure of John Agard’s Checkin Out Me History. Worth listening to if you’re in a mood to concentrate ..


Character and Voice, yeh ..


Personification, uh of course .. The river is a god, old and powerful, uninterruptedly speaking his thoughts. He seems quietly dangerous, but sad somehow and lonely. This is why he doesn’t have too much patience for people who take him for granted and also why he eventually kidnaps a “lady who was too bold,” and hopes she will stay and be his companion. The River God is the dangerous spirit of the river that lies hidden beneath its surface.


Language – Who’s talking? How?


A dramatic monologue in the first person where the poet takes on the persona of the central character – The River God.

The poem starts out as if in reply to ‘accusations’ – who from? It is as if the river is talking to us.

Enjambment, alliteration – all over the place, giving us an idea of ‘who’ The River God actually is. Listen, if you like, to Mrs Tomkins. She has quite a lot to say about the language Stevie Smith chose for her poem here.


What’s it about? – On the surface ..


  1. Roy Conchie Abbey Park 24093124Watch out! A warning – The River God is telling humans that while we may think that he is just a “smelly”, “old” river he is actually a powerful force. Be careful!
  2. We should feel sorry for him – The River God is lonely and misunderstood. He punishes people who don’t respect him and reminds us that while we may dismiss him as “rough and reedy”, he has many good qualities.
  3. This is a love poem – the River God has fallen in love with a human. The River God reminds us that while all of us have forgotten the beautiful lady he will never forget her or forgive her if she leaves.
  4. ‘The River God’ was inspired by an existing river – “the River Mimram in Hertfordshire, which rises from a spring to the north of Whitwell, in North Hertfordshire, and makes its confluence with the River Lea near Horn’s Mill in Hertford.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Mimram


What’s it about? – Themes ..


The power of nature, love, loneliness, rejection, respect, violence .. death.

The poem shows us how we take aspects of nature for granted when each part of it has its own inner life and holds secrets we know nothing about.

In a lot of ways, these days, the poem’s character might appear to be a bit creepy, or sinister. The 21st century context, with its purge of powerful, predatory people, particularly men,  accused, charged and proven guilty of crimes against women and children, perhaps gives the poem a different feel.


It looks like this ..


I may be smelly and I may be old,
Rough in my pebbles, reedy in my pools,
But where my fish float by I bless their swimming
And I like the people to bathe in me, especially women.
But I can drown the fools
Who bathe too close to the weir, contrary to rules.
And they take a long time drowning
As I throw them up now and then in the spirit of clowning.
Hi yih, yippity-yap, merrily I flow,
O I may be an old foul river but I have plenty of go.
Once there was a lady who was too bold
She bathed in me by the tall black cliff where the water runs cold,
So I brought her down here
To be my beautiful dear.
Oh will she stay with me will she stay
This beautiful lady, or will she go away?
She lies in my beautiful deep river bed with many a weed
To hold her, and many a waving reed.
Oh who would guess what a beautiful white face lies there
Waiting for me to smooth and wash away the fear
She looks at me with. Hi yih, do not let her
Go. There is no one on earth who does not forget her
Now. They say I am a foolish old smelly river
But they do not know of my wide original bed
Where the lady waits, with her golden sleepy head.
If she wishes to go I will not forgive her.


It sounds like this ..


This is a reading of the poem set to video by Middlesex University students. It could be The River God, couldn’t it?


The Poet


Stevie Smith 1949 BBC archiveStevie Smith (1902–1971) was born Florence Margaret Smith in Kingston upon Hull.

When she was three, her father left home and she moved with her mother, two aunts and sister to Palmer’s Green in London. At the age of five she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent to a sanatorium in Kent. She suffered from depression all her life.

Many of her poems explore death, a subject she became preoccupied with as a child. She thought of death as a release from what she called the ‘pressure of despair’.

She began writing poetry while working as a private secretary at a publishing company in London. She worked there for 30 years until she suffered a breakdown in her early 50s.

In the 1960s she was a popular, eccentric performer.

This is her talking about and reading what is probably her most famous poem – Not Waving But Drowning

Her poetry is unconventional and uses a dark sense of humour –  amusing but also unnerving, a bit weird.

She wrote eight volumes of poetry and three  semi-autobiographical novels. She drew pictures to accompany her poetry, but rarely found a publisher who wanted to include them in her books.

She died of a brain tumour in 1971.


What do you think?


You may feel some sympathy for the character. He’s been shunned by society for so long, people have used him and taken advantage of him. He has been kind and he has been patient and, most of the time, he has been good. And even when he was bad, he was only bad out of desperation and for want of connection with others, for want of love. Of course, he shouldn’t be so twisted. He should know better and he should be able to control himself and not use his strength and his power to do harm. You might think that. And you might be sure that he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t be like he was, if only people would give him a chance and if only he could find love again.

You might think, no wonder he’s alone. He’s a miserable old brute of a man with nothing but spite and self-interest in his heart. You might argue that he needs to be kept under watch and controlled in case he does harm. Indeed, if he has already done bad things, you might say that he should be locked up for the benefit of decent society. You might suggest even more punishment, depending on how strongly you felt about the crimes the character admits to.

Or you might think something different .. Wonder what Stevie Smith thought?


towpath 1

 

About This Person

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

This session involves a bit of old fashioned detective work. You could imagine Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, you could be more daring and think of someone like Anthony Horowitz’s Jim Diamond, or you could fall back on someone like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marples and think about how she might have pieced the clues together.

a rolled up noteIn the poem, About His Person, Simon Armitage creates a sense of melancholic mystery using the contents of a man’s pockets listed almost matter-of-factly, giving the reader tantalising insights into the life and even character of this man.

Not only this, but Armitage also invites us to imagine the context in which this man’s possessions are being listed.

Here is Simon Armitage’s poem:

About His Person

Five pounds fifty in change, exactly,
a library card on its date of expiry.
A postcard stamped,
unwritten, but franked,
a pocket size diary slashed with a pencil
from March twenty-fourth to the first of April.
A brace of keys for a mortise lock,
an analogue watch, self winding, stopped.
A final demand
in his own hand,
a rolled up note of explanation
planted there like a spray carnation
but beheaded, in his fist.
A shopping list.
A givaway photograph stashed in his wallet,
a keepsake banked in the heart of a locket,
no gold or silver,
but crowning one finger
a ring of white unweathered skin.
That was everything.

He is surely dead, isn’t he? The title, with its play on the official crime jargon used to introduce a description of items found on a dead body,  gives the reader that much. But how did he die? Who is making the list? Is it a policeman? The coroner? A forensic criminologist just out of university with the task of piecing together the man’s world in order to assist in discovering the truth about his death?

We, the reader, don’t know. We have plenty of clues, but can they tell us anything for certain?

Fact or fiction? Who knows.

Activity:
Write a paragraph speculating on the significance of objects found on a dead body.

Stimulus:
The poem and the objects described are the stimulus for this piece of writing.

Guide:

Armitage presents a number of everyday objects for his readers to ‘use’ to piece together the story of the dead man. For example, there is ‘five pounds fifty in change’, a ‘library card on its date of expiry’, a postcard. All of these things give us clues about who the man was. A rich man? An avid reader? Who was the postcard for? Similarly, Armitage describes the man’s diary which had a number of dates ‘slashed with a pencil’. What happened between March 24th and April 1st? What was the note? Who wrote it? Why has it been ‘beheaded’? We, the reader, don’t know but we can make guesses, we can speculate. There are many more ‘clues’ until finally we are made aware of something that is different because it is not there. What could be the significance of the ‘ring of white unweathered skin’? 

simon_armitage_credit_paul_wolfgang_websterIn this session, you are invited to take some or all of the objects listed in the poem and write a paragraph describing what you think they tell us about the man.

Word count
It’s a paragraph so, unless you want to emulate the incredible Roberto Bolaño and write sentences that are longer than some other writers’ chapters, this won’t be too long. 250 words? 500 max., we reckon.

Time
As in all of The Safe House Flash Fiction Writing Sessions, the length of time you spend is entirely up to you. We would think, though, that you might want to spend about an hour on this to make it into a complete paragraph with carefully constructed sentences and accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Genre
Well, the stimulus is a poem but you could fit this to all sorts of genre. Crime fiction comes to mind, obviously, or even crime reporting. You, the writer should choose.

Point of View
Pretty sure this would usually be third person, but you might want to write it from the point of view of the detective who is trying to piece together the clues about the dead man. You, the writer, should choose.

Process
Of course, you will need to read the poem. And probably read it again.

Then, it might be good to make a list of the items you are going to focus on in your paragraph and link them to notes from your ‘detective-like’ thinking. This list, and the notes that go with them, will form the research and planning stage of your writing. There is no need to worry about sentences or accuracy yet.

Next, you could take each of the objects and the notes in turn and construct a sentence which explains the significance of the object. You could then join these together using linking words to form longer sentences and, eventually, a whole paragraph.

When you have a first draft of the paragraph, take a short break and then come back to it and read what you have written. Think about the meaning of the sentences you have written and, if there is any confusion, edit your writing so that your meaning is clear to your reader.

The next stage involves reading again, carefully and checking for spelling, punctuation and grammar problems. These need to be sorted out so that you are not embarrassed at a later stage and so that your reader doesn’t get distracted from the points you are making.

Make sure you are happy for people to read your writing!

italian dog logoWhat next?

If you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!

This IS The Safe House – “We can take you to a better place.”

 

‘Smash yr face into my textbook’

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

clock

Many of us are constantly embroiled in creating stuff for other people to judge us by. This is part of our contract with the world of measuring, judging and accrediting worthiness. We engage in it, even though it messes with our mind and eats at our soul. Is there another way?

Activity

Take a break from your studies.

Read Dominic Nolan’s poem (below) and create your own piece of writing to describe and define your own take on the pressures of the ‘hand-in’ deadline.

Stimulus

It’s not an essay deadline until somebody’s in tears

Smash yr face into my textbook – 4th edition.
a lot of extra material added.
i am hitting the bong and it is my homemade bong and i am 22,
now i am 23
let’s take these bread-knives and cut each other up.
you hold my legs down first and saw them both off
then i’ll take ur feet too, take my left arm and chop
and I’ll do you the same until we both all right
lock eyes and saw slowly off our dominant hands until
plop — plop —
we just stumps with a head, smash them up and scoop out
20 grand, put it thru your processor
double-spaced, font size 12, stapled,
on my desk by Monday​

(Dominic Nolan)

Guide

its not an essay deadlineDominic Nolan’s piece depicts a violence which might seem to the outsider to be the dead opposite of academic life.

However, the result of the research, the planning, the drafting and the writing of an academic piece that is to be assessed and then given a grade will affect the rest of your life.

It is tough, and the potential for violence in this context is evident in the distressing and insanely destructive exchange between student and tutor, assessed and assessor, described in the poem. With its text-speak spelling and belligerent refusal to entertain capital letters, the poem describes a possible result of the interaction and the mayhem and madness that the pressure to ‘achieve’ can cause.

Word count and process

Dominic Nolan’s poem is 121 words long. You could aim for something similar in length.

Think about your own deadlines. Are they achievable? How do they make you feel? How are you doing right now with regard to achieving them? How are you handling the pressure? Are you in contact with others who are under similar stress? Are they dealing with it as well as you are? What else could you be doing with your time? How will it feel when it’s all over?

Write notes on your feelings in response to these questions.

windowsMaybe just note single words, or brief notes on a scene that is part of how you feel. Describe the room you are in with a single word. Describe the objects in front of you in single words. Describe your emotions in the same way.

Take a moment. Read your notes. Think of the words you have used. Are there other words you could use to say what you want? Change words, add words. Jumble the words up into different orders. Experiment with the language you are using and the context you are describing.

Move away from the spelling, punctuation and grammar requirements of your academic studies and think about creating a piece using the type of language and spelling you would use with more spontaneous forms of communication. Be imaginative with your situation.

The length of the thinking and note-taking process will vary, of course, depending on how easily ideas come into your head. Aim to do this quickly, though.

Remember, you have more important stuff to do and a deadline to meet!

You should try and produce a first draft finished piece of around 120 words in about 15 minutes.

Later, spend some time re-reading, re-writing, deleting, revising, re-reading, re-writing, deleting, revising again and again for as long as you can. That way you can be as sure as possible that you have produced a piece you are happy with

italian-dog-logo4.jpegWhat next?

If you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

This IS The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!

Thanks to Dominic Nolan for allowing us to use his writing in this post … ; )

 

Voices of the Heart

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

23-05-2010 405This session is about reading.

At The Safe House, we have been experimenting a bit with the spoken voice. We think that there is potential for some interesting creative collaboration in this and we would really like to know what you think.

Activity

Choose a piece of text, practise reading it aloud, record it, save it and send it to The Safe House.

Stimulus

The stimulus for this session is Derek Mahon’s poem, ‘Everything is going to be alright.’

We posted it recently in Words We Like.

Here it is again:

everything is going to be all right

We have recorded a spoken voice recording of this poem.

Here it is: ‘Everything is going to be alright’ read by Liam Winters.

Guide

Liam’s audio recording is just under thirty seconds long. You could choose a longer text, or a shorter one. The text could be of any genre. This is a poem, but you could choose a quotation, even a story if you are up for it. It could be a song. It could be a recipe, a list, a paragraph or a sentence from a book – fiction or non-fiction.
Liam’s recording is soft and gentle. You will decide on the tone you use, the intonation, the emphases, etc. Take a look at the process described below to see what we mean.

Process

factory windowsThink of the things you have read. Is there anything that you carry with you in your head or your heart or which has a special meaning to you? Have you read something recently that made you stop and think?

That is the sort of text we are thinking of for this session.

  • If possible, have a copy of the text on a piece of paper.
  • Read it over several times in your head and out loud. You could ask other people to listen. They might make suggestions as to where you might make changes to your reading. You may want to emphasise certain words for meaning and effect.
  • Note these on your printed copy. This will become your ‘script’.
  • Your reading of the text will call for you to create a mood or changing moods with your voice. What are the moods and emotions that need to be communicated in your text? Consider the ways to create these moods and emotions through your voice.
  • When you have experimented a bit and made your notes to help you with your reading, record a version. At The Safe House, we used a small voice recorder. You could probably use your phone, a computer or any other audio recording device that can create, save and send an MP3 file.
  • Listen to your recording. It could be that when you listen to your recording, it doesn’t sound right. It could be that you get background noise that interferes with the spoken voice. Some background noise could be fine. Other things might not. You will decide.
  • If you need to, record your piece again until you are happy with it. Take your time.
  • Take a break.
  • Come back and listen to it again later.
  • Record again, if you want to.
  • When you are happy with your recording, save it and send it to us at The Safe House.
  • Send your final audio recording as an MP3 file e-mail attachment to: thesafehouse138@yahoo.co.uk

What next?

italian-dog-logo2.jpegHere at The Safe House, we will listen to your recording and give you feedback on it.

We will also discuss with you how we could develop your recording in order to preserve it and share it at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

Big thanks to Liam Winters and Emma Gibson for being at The Safe House for reading, recording and editing!

 

Innocent As Strawberries

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

abbeypark bridge and cafeThis session is about imagining the world from another person’s point of view and describing their thoughts.

Activity

Imagine you had to hide somewhere in a park. It’s night time. You have nowhere else to go. Where would you hide?

What would your last thoughts be before finally falling asleep?

Stimulus

abbey park map

Click on the map to go to Google Maps.

As well as the map of the park, the stimulus for this session is Dylan Thomas’s poem, The Hunchback in the Park.

The poem is about a homeless man who uses the park on a daily basis to pass away his days and to sleep. He is a lonely man, rejected by everyone who uses the park because he is deformed and ugly. He is an outcast. The poem describes how the poet imagines his feelings of loneliness and rejection to be.

At the end of the poem, the hunchback settles down for the night. He is frightened and alone. There could be people in the park who are out to get him!

Have a look at this for more detail about the poem.

Guide

abbey park - young people meeting by the lakeThis is an exercise in getting into the mind of a particular character.

You should read the poem two or three times. Read it out loud. Get someone else to read it and you listen while you’re reading the words.

Try to work out all the different types of people the poet describes who come into the park.

Think about how the ‘Hunchback’ feels when he sees these people. What goes on inside his head as he tries to keep safe?

Think about what we know about the ‘Hunchback’ from what the poet tells us.

Think about what we don’t know about him.

How old is he?
How long has he been living in the park?
How did he end up there?
Has he got any friends, family, children?
What has happened to him?

bandstand through treesImagine what it must be like to have to keep out of sight from everyone for fear of what they might do to you.

How frightening that must be!

Imagine how difficult it would be to get to sleep, no matter how tired you were.

Write down the last thoughts of the ‘Hunchback’ as he finally drops off to sleep at night in the park.

Word count and process

This could, of course, be a single word!

But maybe you could extend your writing a bit further than that. A sentence? Twenty-five words? You could extend it into something longer. You could be quite dramatic and it could become more of an extended internal dramatic monologue. 250 words?

You, the writer, will decide.

Abbey Park Bricks and LightsIt will be first person, of course. At least, it probably will.

When you have something down, take time to read what you have written, change words, add words, delete and edit.

Take a break. Come back to it later and do the same thing. You might feel like extending the piece a little bit. Do it! Write more!

Don’t forget to check your writing for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Does your writing always make sense?

Make sure you are happy for people to read your writing!

What next?

italian-dog-logo2.jpegIf you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!