The first day of the Ellen Bass workshop was packed full of ideas, words, writing & even some socializing. The first three I pretty good at buy the fourth isn’t my forte. I’ve never been one for networking, for handing out business cards & such. I can carry a conversation though because I know when you say ‘how is your writing going’ I get to listen. Even when someone asks me that I get to listen.
A large group of over 20 ‘student’ plus Ellen & the two organizers James Dewar & Sue Reynolds made for a good mix. there were actually some other men in the group. Plus I did know some of the other writers too.
The day started with self-introductions followed by a talk by Ellen on ‘the long arm poem’ – this is a piece that rambles, takes tangents, in a seemingly random way but in the end reveals something about itself. Over lunch we were to write a long arm piece with a set of conditions & even a list of words to possibly use.
After lunch we returned – split into two groups with different facilitators to share what we had written. Saturday I was in Ellen’s group. Most of us produced rather polished rough drafts – many dealt with complex emotion problems: death, aging parents, the loss of a marriage etc. My piece, below, dealt with none of those things but was well received anyway.
Here are some lines from the pieces presented: ‘ashes os embers long cold,’ ‘a scream that never ended even after forty-five years,’ ‘carpets shopped for relentlessly,’ ‘left behind the idea of being marriage,’ ‘painting over all of it with fire,’ ‘eyes an empty black,’ ‘night outside the frame growing,’ ‘but there was no bed,’ ‘what he doesn’t realize is I am begging for mercy,’ ‘rows that keep thinning in the wind, ‘the raven’s voice scratches on the air,’ ‘recall the last thing I said to my daughter, ‘smiles in that gap-toothed way,’ ‘I want to touch you but you like to be right,’ ‘a world in which he did not feel safe,’ ‘dying in all the wrong places, ‘she sings Medea in her fleece pyjamas,’ ‘and so it goes,’ ‘Magdalene wants me to read the angel poems.’
After this session we had one last presentation by Ellen on the role of discovery – ‘a mind puzzling its own way out of its own shadow.’ She feels a poem needs to do more than entertain but it should lead bot the reader & the writer to a new realization, a new way of looking at life.
You know something as much as I appreciate this I also know that what I say/write are often not what people hear/read. I’d rather write heedless of those ends because I wrote with that in mind I might not write at all.
It’s a SOCA convention
a man in a rust-red tweed sport coat
riches out his hand
‘are you here for the convention’
it’s my hotel but not my problem
though I am awake & out before 9 a.m.
not hungover or looking to score
the schooners around me are boats
not beer glasses
in some brassy sports bar
I know about recovery
rooms of people sitting in circles
rounds of support
restless feet in black shoes
where they end by
they want to show me mercy
but I don’t want to hold their hands
joining in that circle
won’t bring me into their lives
one is the loneliest number
who has one rusty nail
sees one snow flake
though no two flakes are identical
I am recovering like them
but I don’t enter their circle
won’t make snow angels with them
I felt the itch that induced SOCA
but never scratched it that way
he reaches out his hand
I say ‘not here for the conference’
and sail out into the morning
not ready for conformity
(SOCA – Southern Ontario Cocaine Anonymous)
October 24 -Saturday and October 25 -Sunday presently attending: Ellen Bass Poetry Workshop: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Harbourfront Centre
November 18, Wednesday: judging at Hot Damn! it’s a Queer Slam – Supermarket Restaurant and Bar 268 Augusta Ave., Toronto, Ontario M5T2L9
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