The Baroque Christmas poetry workshop has taken place, and I have brought you back this picture as a souvenir. I’m pleased to report that some great stuff was written, and it was – as anticipated! – a fun day. Boy oh boy though, I was shattered when I got home last night.
EDITING IN: This is a 2011 post! This year’s Christmas workshop takes place on Saturday Dec 15th, and all details are on my Saturday Workshops page, here. There will be mince pies and kittens, as well as poems galore.
Essentially, the idea was to use writing about Christmas as a way of ‘getting into the spirit’ – even, by considering it inwardly, to subvert or circumvent some of the less pleasant aspects of the holiday – which, in my experience, can tend to take you by surprise. The first surprise was when I said I thought this might be a useful exercise as I always find myself writing Christmas poems, and it turned out that no one else in the room had ever written one.
Rule One: don’t assume your experience is universal!
What did come out though was that the ‘usual’ Christmas of everyone in the room is very different. I had made a slideshow of Christmas images, and they exposed both what is there – googlable, on the web – and what isn’t. What isn’t tends to be the bits that make no money and don’t adhere to the stereotype: disabled people, homeless people, rehabs, people who may even be very middle class but are alone or isolated at Christmas, Christmas for people with (and relatives with) Alzheimers, inner-city and housing-estate Christmases, divorced Christmases…
Rule Two: don’t assume the universal has to have anything to do with your experience.
Having said which, we had interesting discussions about the Hackney Siege, what it’s like to walk around on Christmas Day, animals in the Christmas paradigm, and the paradox of the centrality of poverty to the Christmas story.
And then we played games with words, to break free of the tyranny of the narrative: I didn’t want people unable to break free from the merely descriptive. A challenge, and met with some panache.
I even started writing a poem myself! Thought I’d better try the exercise, and readers: it works. And I even got some Christmas spirit, into the bargain. No loan required.
Here’s a poem we looked at: brand-new, by my friend Gary From Leeds:
Gold, frankincense and that
They put Christmas
Decorations up early
He paid off
Read more on the Poetry Advent Calendar.
There will also be a Twelve Days of Christmas poem-a-day on Ink, Sweat & Tears.
In other news, another packed poetry day for your correspondent – toiling at the coalface to bring back the treasures, to load your rifts with…
First: Geoffrey Hill, the scariest English poet, at the Purcell Room at 2pm. I haven’t yet (alas) seen his new book, Clavics, so it will all be new to me. Very much looking forward to it: I’ve never heard hi read before.
Then: from the scariest poet to the friendliest group of poets (well I guess I’d say that, since they’re my friends…) and to Clerkenwell for the Betsey Trotwood all-dayer. To be honest I’ve been unsure whether I was going to make it – tired and stressed and other things to do – but it is a lovely fun day, so I expect I will be unable to not go along. It’s just festive poetry fun from 3pm till closing, so if you’re in London and dreading the dark afternoon get yourself over there.
And if that picture at the top didn’t do it for you, here’s a Christmas kitten you might like: