Brian’s first workshop for us was delightfully simple. He brought along a pack of postcards of famous paintings and asked us to choose one and then ‘get inside it’ and write accordingly. He also laid out some optional ‘first lines’ in case anyone was stuck wondering how to begin. Several of us used this device to give us a kick start, though almost all the cards were inspirational enough to speak for themselves.
Now, I afraid with 18 writers (including myself) and a mere 20-odd minutes in which to scribble our efforts, I failed to take a note of which paintings were used, so can mostly only mention the resulting work.
We began with a lovely poem, a kind of ode to silence and stillness, which took the form of a villanelle, ie a poem with two repeating rhymes and refrains. (OK, so I had to look that up to be sure. So…?) Not much of a poet myself, I am always amazed and impressed that anyone can achieve this in a short workshop. Slightly later, we had yet another beautiful poem inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
As always, most of us conjured up our images in prose, and there was a moving anti-war tribute, a delightful piece with two horses chatting as they ploughed on the south downs, a child musing on the horror of time and the revelation of growing older, a Martian therapist hiding on earth and a quick march through some re-arranged history with a monk and a Christian-hungry lion!
It is always difficult to give a flavour of the overall inventiveness of the stories from our workshops, but how about the circus ringmaster who reaches this position by graduating from washing bodies for an undertaker to washing elephants at the circus, and that really was just the start of his career? And the couples from the bicycle club whose future was not to be quite what they had hoped for, and the woman happily dozing in the marijuana haze in an Amsterdam cafe. And many more, every one entertaining..
I can’t resist mentioning the piece that conjured up images from the 1950’s – the Reveille, Charles Atlas having sand thrown in his face and ‘something for the weekend’ in the barber shop. Not quite sure how it related to the Rubens that the writer claimed had inspired it, but what do I know?
Thanks, Brian, that was fun. As it should be. I am often tempted to think that our refusal to take ourselves seriously lies at the root of our overall high standard. Long may that continue.
Reading week next week at Tesco, optional theme: Exercise is good for you …isn’t it? Looking forward to that. See you there. Sally.