Hey, we did it! It was a great night @ New Art Exchange, Hyson Green, Nottingham and we made our voices heard, in celebration of some wonderful women writers. The very much alive Nottingham poet Panya Banjoko made the evening by joining us to perform some of her own poems .
The anthology celebrates the lives of Susannah Wright; Mary Howitt; Dorothy Whipple; Helen Cresswell, together with the current contributions made by Panya Banjoko to Nottingham’s rich literary heritage.
A range of contributors from across Nottinghamshire have written stories, poems and scripts which are a tribute, some reflect the style or themes of these writers and others were inspired by their writing to come up with something very personal and individual. All workshops were run by award winning author , Helen Cross .
You can obtain a copy from Nottingham Writers Studio , £12
I have been so thrilled to be part of this writing project and now to take part in the launch of the anthology on Monday 29th April 2019 at the New Art Exchange, Hyson Green, Nottingham. It has been so interesting to remind ourselves how much freedom we have in the UK to read what we like, speak our minds and how important it is to value this freedom of expression. It has been hard won by the women that came before us – those who took risks in pushing social, political and literary boundaries. We need to carry forth their Independent spirit , their determination to publish and be heard, the power of direct action and their faith in women’s voices.
The anthology pays homage to Susannah Wright, Mary Howick, Dorothy Whipple, Helen Cresswell, writers from the past , and to our living poet Panya Banjoko. Now is the time to celebrate these writers for their willingness to be radical, to shape new ideas and give women from ordinary backgrounds a voice.
Contributors to the Anthology have come from a wide range of backgrounds and writing groups, all tutored and encouraged by the lovely Helen Cross and now the work is being published. I think I write like a woman, but with the heart of a girl and with the resilience of all the girls before me. Thank you for this opportunity. 🗣🎉
Leanne Moden is a poet based in NOTTINGHAM and cohost of the Crosswords open mic night held monthly . Recently, she had a successful one woman show at Stamford Arts Theatre. Fresh from all this Leanne is running this one -off session on language and poetry and I have been lucky enough to take part.
We are a motley crew of poets , writers and thinkers, about 10 of us, all wondering what to expect. Leanne is warm and welcoming then gets straight to it by suggesting a free write session based on the theme of “ Today”. That gets the creative juices trickling …
“ Today is a day much like any other but at the same time it is a whole fresh new day like no other. A singular day, a clean sheet, a tabular rasa, a mystery waiting to unfold, the latest episode in the box set of life, a riveting, engrossing snapshot in the discourse of the universe “
Next, time to experiment with a Pathya Vat, a Cambodian verse form consisting of four lines of four syllables each, where lines two and three rhyme. When a poem consists more than one stanza, the last line of the previous stanza rhymes with the second and third lines of the following one. So, 4 line stanzas; 2nd and 3rd line rhyme which must be spoken aloud , with the option of varying the rhyme. Straight into writing a poem – I love it! Despite the sceptical looks and sighs of self doubt shared around the table, we all manage to come up with something.
No stopping us now , we are on to a Landay, apparently the linguistic equivalent of a small poisonous snake , with sarcasm the main tone. It covers big themes in only two lines, of 9 syllables and 13 syllables.The Landay is a traditional Afghan poetic form consisting of a single couplet. These short poems typically address themes of love, grief, homeland, war, and separation.
“ Strange we cannot solve all the knife crime
To do so we would need to admit our poverty”
Ok, well I tried. It is surprisingly tricky to hit the required note of sarcasm required for this poetic form
I am struggling to keep up on this whirlwind world tour but at the same time it is refreshing and simulating.
The Japanese Dodoitsu has a comical, cheeky aspect and often focuses on love or work in a spare 4 line arrangement of 7,7,7,5. This was what I came up within the night, but I will definitely experiment further :
“You love me and the others
With ardour and great passion
How was I to know from this
You love only you”
Leanne makes sure we have tea to keep us going before sharing her store of other language unusual words ( not the strangest collection I have heard of …). This seems confusing as we have no idea of their real meanings but it proves to be very effective in prodding our minds and eliciting different responses. My word was “ Greng- jai” which I imagined as a Japanese feeling of fresh Spring green . It turned out to be Thai and was a rather more prosaic “ feeling you get when you do not want someone to do something for you, because it would be a pain for them”!My poem about a child’s birth suddenly seems misjudged.
We are all inspired by Leanne’s knowledge, her confidence in us and her willingness to share and to mentor us. Knowing that she is a great poet herself does help too! I think I will be travelling further in my armchair than I have travelled before.
Can you remember Lizzie Dripping? A character brought to life on the page by Nottinghamshire author, Helen Cresswell and mother adapted for television. It was a very popular television series in the 1970s and you can still catch some of the episodes on YouTube. Although the setting and dialogue seem dated, they are timeless in their clever scene setting and drawing of character . This makes a good model for us to learn from and the clever Helen Cross gets us to consider this and what is needed to really draw us into a story.
It is all about needs, wants and desires apparently with a strong dose of change and transformation thrown in. Throw in a secret and you are on to a winner! Some action, some dialogue, smells and sounds all add up to a good story. We practice writing by describing our best friend when we were a teenager , then later, a meaningful conversation we have had with someone in our lifetime. Meaningful, are you sure?
Next we look at Panya Banjoko’s “ For Some Things” collection and consider poetry and character, looking at voice, metaphors, tight images, symbols, flashes and the precision of language, the ambiguity of meaning. Banjoko’s “They and Them” is a world away from Lizzie Dripping, but it is sparse, powerful and full of characters and action that draw you in to visceral drama.
It it is a tightly packed agenda as usual , the conversation could carry on a lifetime but we only have two hours. We are sent away to do our best writing for the forthcoming anthology for “ Write Like A Girl”. It is a tall order, we have our Nottingham women pioneers to look up to and hopefully inspiration will come. 💖
Write Like A Girl Nottingham Writers Boshemia Poetry Cocktail
Helen is the author of novels, stories, radio plays and screenplays. Her first novel, My Summer of Love, won a Betty Trask Award and became a BAFTA award winning feature film. Workshop no 2 was held at Sneinton Market.
We are two weeks in to this project where we are looking at some famous women from Nottingham, authors and poets who have had or are having great success. We need to celebrate their abilities to tell empathic, strong stories reflecting the realities of girls and women’s lives. It’s also a good opportunity to listen to some well- crafted short stories as we focus on Dorothy Whipple. Her deftly drawn scenarios, rich with sensory detail and symbolism, even as she discusses the domestic arrangements of a middle class household of the thirties or forties, help us to relate to the characters and their dilemmas, reaching across the ages, across cultures and social class. The women are bound by their class and position , by the expectations and oppressions that existed, yet they are vibrant and alive , with their own emotions, foibles and opinions. Yes, naturally some of the dialogue sounds dated, but it is of its time and marvellously written. The women seem timeless in that their hopes and dreams are ours – to be loved and to love, to have adventures, to be seen for the individuals that we are and not discounted as the “fairer sex”. The men are emblematic, yes, but they also are shown to be both good and bad and also symptomatic of the cultural expectations of the time.
Inspiration comes from Helen in the form of excellent tuition on how to devise Location and to make location a central element of a short story. I am new to looking at the structure of these things, so to me it is fascinating and judging by the keen participation of the 12 or so women there, we are all hooked.
This is followed by quick fire exercises to encourage our writing flow:
– The most amazing view you have ever seen ;
– Your parents’ bedroom when you were a teenager;
– The view from your window when you were under five years old.
Later, we each look at a black and white print of an old painting and concoct a story . Mine is a photo of a cottage garden, the cottage is in the picture, with Beverley Minster looming in the background. It is all looking a bit Jane Austen , so no surprise that I come up with a character called Lydia who loves to swish her gown against the pungent mint as she escapes into the hollyhocks away from all the visitors.
Here we are , a a bunch of diverse women, working creatively together , all foraging in our past, reaping details from the present and dreaming up our futures . I am really looking forward to reading some of our best work in the anthology due to accompany the Write Like A Girl project.
Write Like A Girl is an art project being run by the talented Helen Cross. Helen is the author of novels, stories, radio plays and screenplays. Her first novel, My Summer of Love, won a Betty Trask Award and became a BAFTA award winning feature film.
Workshop no 1 was held at a Networking Venue, Sneinton Market. Great venue, except not on a February winter’s day when the thin glass veneer surrounding us makes it feel like we are stuck in a snow globe with no hope of movement. I did not remove my gloves, not even to write. This though was the only frozen aspect of the afternoon. Everything else served well to fire us up and get the creative temperature rising.
We assemble around the plain tables, all eager to write and to explore our heritage. Nottingham has, we learn, got some famous women writers to match the much lauded men in talent, passion, output and sales. Yes, these women were feted in their day, they changed things and had their voices heard. There is even a living black woman, Panya Banjoko, who speaks to us all through her poetry. Come on Nottingham, recognise these women, read these women and remember them!
Over the next months we will be congregating to consider these authors in more depth:
Susannah Wright b1792
Mary Howitt b 1799
Dorothy Whipple b 1893
Helen Cresswell b 1935
Panya Banjoko, contemporary.
Inspiration is just around the corner, in this case quite literally as Sneinton Market is not far away.