With National Poetry Day falling slap-bang in the middle of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival, I wish I could send out little pieces of me to all the concurrent events I’m missing, in order to attend/participate in others. Buy, hey, what a social whirl it makes for (and, for those who know me well, my poetry social life is a standing joke – in a nice way, of course)!
Last night, nine women attended Cathy Grindrod’s workshop, Only Write What Only You Can Write, hosted by Soundswrite women’s poetry group as part of Everybody’s Reading festival – one of two free and open-to-all events we received funding for, this year. (2013’s ER workshop with Kim Moore was packed to the rafters).
Cathy Grindrod is a widely-published poet and former Derbyshire Poet Laureate. She also writes plays, scripts and literary fiction and works as a literature consultant, poetry tutor and mentor. I met her a couple of years ago when she ran a workshop for shortlisted candidates for a mentorship programme. (Under her guidance, I was able to hone my rather vague aspirations as an ’emerging poet’ into a finite list of achievable short-term aims).
By way of introduction, we shared ways in which we, as writers, ‘keep the faith.’ These included attending writing groups to give and receive honest feedback, co-mentoring, and reading/sharing published work by others. During the course of the two and a half hour workshop, we explored ten ways that Cathy has found useful in her writing life.
We spent some time reflecting on our personal beliefs and whether we felt these were evident in our writing. We were also invited to consider who we write for, and writing with the reader in mind. For me, this was a reminder of how easy it is too become too inwardly focused, to say nothing of the lure of publication in highly-regarded poetry magazines.
And we discussed the importance of being ‘in the world’ and learning from others. I know I’ve benefitted most from writing groups that are outward-looking and have a keen interest in all that is current in the world of poetry, as well as the wealth of its past.
At number four on the list was ‘recognising poetic snobbery’ – how refreshing! We each had our own view of what this constitutes. If we recognise it for what it is, we can set it aside.
We also engaged in some short writing exercises. As well as coming away with a nugget or two, I’ve discovered new ways into a poem that I’m keen to use again. For now, will I be able to leave those nuggets alone for long enough to come back to them with a reader’s objectivity?