Writing ‘Home’: National Poetry Day workshop

Many thanks to Miller, Hugh, Arthur, Steve, Sue, Joe, and Marie for joining me last night at Winchester Discovery Centre, where we spent an enjoyable evening workshopping on the National Poetry Day theme of ‘Home’. I think we had all felt the same initial difficulty with this theme: that it’s not immediately conducive to good writing, because the first thing it prompts is cliché. So after we had written down as many clichés and received phrases on the topic as possible (about 40, from Home Sweet Home to The Lights Are On But Nobody’s Home), we tried to get past the cliche and into fresh ground. After discussing a number of ideas about home – what makes a house a home, or not a home? Is home a physical thing, a social situation, a state of mind, or even a smell? Can a home be made in language or in memory? – we got down to writing, and some excellent work emerged. Joe gave about bees drawn home by magnets and David Cameron pondering escape from Number 10; Sue reminded us that home is a place of pain as well as comfort with the cooker that turns the tables on human meat; Steve also turned conventional ideas of home around with a vivid poem about the Christchurch earthquake; Marie started gathering her ancestor’s bones and stories ‘home’ through memory; Hugh drew a delicate pastoral vision of home speaking its own language; and Miller conveyed very powerfully how ‘rooms are just a way to fill up space’ when they are empty of loved ones.

A brief mention also to Katrina Naomi, who wasn’t there, but whose ‘Everyday Story of Mortgages’ was appreciated by everybody, and worked very well as inspiration for new work. If you haven’t read her yet, she’s an accessible and entertaining poet whom I think is heading for big things. Well worth a look.

But I hope no-one else will feel slighted if I say that for me the last word has to go to Steve, whose poem about his grandfather’s decor, written in just a few minutes at the end of the evening, was deeply felt and powerfully written – simple but very moving, and one of the many pieces that I hope to hear again at the Home-Themed Poetry Cafe on the 20th.