Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Taking the Plunge - HEART Centre

Sally Bavage writes:
Before we plunged in to the work  of two local WEA creative writing groups – Headingley and Osmondthorpe – we were treated to some original poetry from three local established writers.  James Nash told us of the confusion of a recent recruit waiting for his army transport.  A tank?  A jeep?  No, a taxi!  And his sonnet to a potentially lost love was light and tender.

Headingley Creative Writing Group
Bill Fitzsimons read of sadder things: a daughter surviving and thriving after a parental divorce; man's inhumanity not to man but the Earth; a daughter's deathbed.  Sad but beautifully written, giving meaning to elegiac.

Finally Maria Stephenson read to us of her accommodation with divorce, as well as her big 40 milestone.   The death of a marriage where rigor mortis has set in morphs to a joyous anticipation of the next decade of the living bucket list.   A marathon, flying, horseriding and, of course, the novel.  Already being edited; watch this space.

Then on to the first of our creative writing groups, those from Headingley based at HEART under the tutelage of Liz McPherson.  Each of the fourteen contributors from the group took the theme of 'Endings' and interpreted it very differently. 

Myrna Moore saw The Shed and her dad in his final days.  Cate Anderson wrote of a Doodlebug Summer in London in WW2, and reminisced about the rarity of an orange. 
Rosie Cantrell wrote a Quick Note to My Nearest and Dearest, detailing what could, and should not, be taken from her fridge.  Oh, and an affair with her children's uncle. 
Nuala Fernand took the Blondie song title Heart of Glass but explored in poem form what happens to love. 
Howard Benn wrote in Slumber Down of the decay of a man who, from sleeping naked, now wore pyjamas over his wrinkled limbs and his dragged-down clothes echoed his sagging skin. 
Steph Peart wrote in the Sick Room of gnarled hands, lizard skin, at the end of life. 

Jim Mallin spoke an ode to Dear Football, whose lure had stolen his ambitions, provided the name of his goldfish (Stanley Matthews) and taken over his life. 
Julie Jones explored an updated children's story in Three Little Pigs, Another Way.  Similar story, different ending as Porky Percy and Bacon met Red (Riding Hood) and a vegetarian wolf with a peanut allergy and anger management issues. 
Dru Long wrote Birdsong, exploring the premise that the things we think are permanent can change in an instant.  Think Ghouta in Syria or Grenfell Towers.  We can wake to birdsong on an ordinary day, everywhere.
Karen Byrne assured us that All Things Pass, even hurt, isolation, pain and joy.  Brother, all things pass.  
Marie Paule Sheard left us a conundrum in To End or Not to End, inspired by a quote from Paulo Coelho: 'It's always important to now when something has reached its end.'  
Janet Fawdington updated us on Rapunzel – the True Story, exploring her rejection of being ladylike or princessy,  and pelted her would-be prince suitors with potatoes.  
Barbara Lawton reminded us of a modern truth in Breakdown; young people need support from parents, not a denial of the truth.
Malcolm Henshall gave us Three Minutes and Counting as he tried to sell us a new improved religion.  HR (Heavenly Resources) were involved, of course, but things went awry as the countdown fizzled out and he had to return to the drawing board.

Crumbs!  No, we hadn't reached the home-made cake yet but a short break in an already extraordinary morning; a good time to process the images and couplets we had been served.

Osmondthorpe Creative Writing Group had been visited by a representative from the Brontë Parsonage and they took a last line 'Endings' from work by all the Brontës and wove them into their own stories and poems.  I was going to write 'What a novel idea' but that would be a cliché!  
Maria Stephenson, their tutor, paid particular thanks to the helpers Gavin, Hazel and David, without whose help she would not have been able to support them all.

Julie Conroy used 'Must bear alone the weary Strife' from On the Death of Anne Brontë by Charlotte, to write her own poem on the dramas of life with family and friends.
Mandy Hudson explored 'Reader, I married him' – surely one of the best-known lines from Jane Eyre – and declaimed that she wanted a happy ending too.
Osmondthorpe Creative Writing Group
Lisa Daniel used 'They Tell Their Own Story' from Wuthering Heights by Emily to show lives full – but short - of drama and intrigue.
Colin Monaghan showed that 'With Courage to Endure' from poem The Old Stoic by Emily, he himself had endured learning to walk and live again after an accident put him over the handlebars of a bike. He lived with memory lapses and then asked, “What are those?”
Pam Robinson took the line 'The Blue Ice Curdling on the Stream' by Emily and reflected on icy moorland rivers in the depths of the winter.
Lee Rowley 'Must Bear Alone the Weary Strife', On the Death of Anne Brontë by Charlotte, “I am a broken man, But despite my agony I soldier on the best I can, I have to live in hope, One letter can change my life.”
Robert Thorpe took 'And what thou art may never be destroyed', the last lines written by Emily, to explore some apocalyptic scenes and advised us to book a holiday instead!
Paul Bugler explained that 'The Story is Told', from Shirley by Charlotte, to warn of the dangers of fire – the sign of impending death.
Paul Jeffrey explained that 'Till Then Farewell', from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne, implied we would one day be together again with loved ones.
Gaynor Chilvers – 'How Could I Seek the Empty World Again', from Remembrance by Emily – talked of finding her inner voice looking back into her past.
Jenny Ruddock used 'I Will Not, Cannot Go' from Spellbound by Emily to explain why she hated going to town – too many people, too many cars, too much noise.
Julie Bell found inspiration in 'Let him by Moonlight pale to this sweet scene repair' from the poem Kirkstall Abbey by Patrick. 
Winky Whiteley also used 'The Story is Told' from Shirley to write a paean of praise and love to his mum, proudly sitting in the audience.   The story of my mother is a happy one, he said, like a swan mothering her cygnets.
Leann Rhodes found 'Till Then, Farewell', from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne, inspired her to write a letter to her friend, signing off a happy missive with the line above made jaunty in this context.
Amina Brennar found 'Rolled past the shores of joy's dim and distant isle' from On Ouse's Grassy Bank by Branwell to help her reminisce about her life at college and her wistfulness about such happy times.
Julie Fisher used  'They Tell Their Own Story' from Wuthering Heights to reveal her life story   - parents told she would never amount to anything, learning to read and write, wash and dress herself, intelligence tests showing she was clever enough for university and wanting to work with the children she would never have.  A real tear-jerker to end.

What a morning! A privilege to have been there, to have heard voices usually quietened explain emotions and feelings in poetry and prose presented by those not often given the chance to have an audience.  Wonderful.

Some Things Matter:  sonnets by James Nash
Cinema Stories by James Nash with Matthew Hedley Stoppard
A Bench for Billie Holiday: 70 sonnets is James' new collection from Valley Press and should be out in October,

Written on the skin by Bill Fitzsimons

Poetry for the newly single 40 something, by Maria Stephenson

Taking the Plunge writers and audience were treated to a delicious array of home-made cakes - for some the highlight of the morning! - baked by Sally Bavage, Mary Francis and Rachel Harkess.  Needless to say, we were silenced by the munching of ginger and walnut, almond and orange, lemon and poppyseed and a Guinness cake that claimed the record for fastest disappearance.

Audience Comments

The poets projected their work clearly and there was a good variety of theme and mood.  I really enjoyed it

A wonderful inspirational event.  I will come again

Great event.  Enjoyed taking part but also really enjoyed listening to others perform.  The Osmondthorpe group was amazing, very touching.  Such a great performance.  Well done Maria and members

A smooth operation – everything went well.  Some  interesting pieces and good variety in terms of content and presentation

I really enjoyed the whole event.  Great range of work.  Good to hear the poets at the beginning too.  Very moving to hear the Osmondthorpe group who were fantastic.  We all have a voice …

As usual a very impressive event, well run and full of quality writing.  Plenty to think about, happiness and sadness.  Fantastic performance from the Osmondthorpe group.

Thank you for this wonderful experience!   The Osmondthorpe group were so moving – please provide tissues to wipe our tears next year!   The Headingley group were also so inspiring and their work so varied under the same theme of 'Endings'.  BRILLIANT WORK FROM EVERYONE. Can't wait for next year.

Always enjoyable, but each year seems more professional, the performers were so good. Good variety of work too.  Osmondthorpe were inspiring.

I liked the range of writing performed, especially the mix of prose and poetry, and the various ways the theme of 'Endings' had been interpreted

Osmondthorpe were wonderful.  Great organisation of all.  Writing groups' work was extremely professional – varied and high quality.  Great cakes!

Very good

I thought the whole morning of people reading their own work was truly touching and heart-warming.  The Osmondthorpe group especially reduced me to tears with some of their words

A very good and interesting event as it always is with the WEA creative writing groups.  I particularly thought Maria Stephenson's poems were enjoyable and the Osmondthorpe group's life experiences set to Brontë poetry were very interesting

The usual fantastic mix of poetry and prose by the Headingley and Osmondthorpe groups.  A wealth of local talent

Amazing! Let's have more! Osmondthorpe group are inspirational

Very enjoyable.  Great standard of varied writings and readings.  Only downpoint was arriving and feeling very alienated when myself and my friend were almost physically separated by one of the organisers who insisted that I, in a wheelchair, be with the Osmondthorpe writers and my friend be with the Headingley group.  Actually I have previously belonged to both.  No words were spoken to me,  I can speak!  I do speak!  We were not wheelchairs to be got in – we are people.  I know that it's difficult to get everyone in etc but please stay calm and don't make /ignore people in chairs and speak to others with them etc etc etc.  Overall, excellent morning.  Inspiring work from both groups.  The Brontë forms for Osmondthorpe worked very well 

Moving and inspiring work from all.  Bit disconcerting though to hear wheelchair-using people as 'wheelchairs' – people are not their equipment

Brilliant, very well presented, high standard of work, well spoken, moving and inspiring

Excellent performance again.  The Osmondthorpe group were very thought-provoking and moving

Brilliant event.  Really enjoyed it

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