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Mark Tredinnick was in town over the weekend to run two workshops at the SA Writers Centre, the second of which I attended to learn about voice in a poem, or quite often, voices.

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I first met Mark at the launch of Australian Love Poems, which he edited and then again in a workshop he ran last year. Mark is a brilliant poet with an amazing track record; winner of the Montreal Poetry Prize in 2011 and the Cardiff International Poetry Prize in 2012, author of Bluewren Cantos, Fire Diary, and several other celebrated works of poetry and prose.

The workshop explored the discipline of fashioning a poem, the importance of form, voice and language, and the linguistic choices poets are forced to make. Why that form over another, why the line break there, why that word instead of this one – these were just some of the questions posed as we examined pieces by John Glenday, Seamus Heaney and Charles Wright.

Mark also shared with us what he believes and how he works, The Gospel of Mark, with some very salient points:

  • A poem is a leaf that tells a tree
  • The words in a poem are only there to keep the silence apart
  • A poem is a sculpture of voice
  • Poetry recasts life’s exquisite spell
  • Each line in a poem is a poem
  • A poem is a window

It was thought provoking stuff that generated fascinating discussion and insight, and certainly for me, another poem to develop. And just how fab are Mark’s business cards, puts mine to shame!

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I gave Mark a copy of my chapbook after as I’m keen to get his thoughts on it. Another participant presented Mark with a bottle of wine from her own winery having attended both workshops, so I recommended he have that open while reading my collection  😉

Now that’s the name of a workshop that gets your attention! And one I attended on Friday facilitated by David Chapple, Writing Development Manager at the SA Writers Centre.

Why did I go? Death is something we all have in common – be it in the family or what will come to us whether we like it or not – and as much of my work focuses on certain aspects of loss, I was interested to hear other people’s opinions and feelings about death, grieving and the impact it can have.

Walk into the light

I had no idea what to expect, other than I knew that for me it would be an emotive experience, and I was pleasantly surprised. David did an amazing job of prompting, surmising, sharing and exploring our thoughts and beliefs of mortality, and I think we were all quietly awed at just how quickly we shared and how much. Eight strangers, who may or may not meet again, in the beautiful grounds of Enfield Memorial Park on a cold sunny day provided the perfect setting.

The morning consisted of a series of prompts that literally decomposed (excuse the pun!) the last death ceremony we had attended. For some of us, including me, it was difficult to get past the sheer volume of feeling to remember specific sounds, tastes and smells, but it created a patchwork of human experiences, some light, others more intricate. In the afternoon we were asked to think about arranging our own death ceremony! Morbid and weird indeed, but again an interesting challenge – who would we want there, is there anybody we wouldn’t want to attend, how would we be remembered, what would be said, would there be music, laughter, tears, dance, what did we not regret, what did we still want to achieve…?

It takes courage to share and I feel quite proud to have been a part of this, and when asked if there was anything we would change about the workshop we said more time, because there really is much to ponder. And I will leave you with this simple message – life is short, make fun of it  🙂

When I lived in London I participated in a few Poetry School courses, including a workshop with Pascale Petit and an online course facilitated by Helen Ivory.

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Last week the school hosted their first Digital Open Day via CAMPUS, a social network for poets.  I signed up to participate in a couple of their live Q&A chats but unfortunately, due to some technical issues our end plus the time difference, was not able to be actively involved.

However, following each event transcripts were posted on the site for group members to access so I was able to catch up on what I missed.  The live session Path to a First Collection provided a real insight into the heads of prestigious editors – Neil Astley of Bloodaxe Books (also see Jo Bell’s latest blog) and Amy Wack of Seren – and poets – Kim Moore and Hannah Lowe.  Neil and Amy explained what they look for in a submission to grab (and hold) their attention, whereas Kim and Hannah’s perspective was from the submitter and the arduous task of fine-tuning their work before sending it in.  It is an invaluable read for anyone making steps to putting their initial manuscript together, be it a full length or pamphlet collection.

Kim Moore is also the Poetry School’s new Poet in Digital Residence.  Kim is a wonderful poet based in Cumbria, with her intriguing first pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves published by Inpress and eagerly awaited first full length collection due out in 2015 from Seren.  Kim has also been widely published in some of the top literary magazines, such as Rialto and Ambitand after reading her first blog I’m looking forward to more.