I have just returned from the historic members’ library on Angel Row, Nottingham. Contrary to the ethereal address, I was attending a workshop on concrete poetry facilitated by the grounded and warm Kate Genever. And there was cake. Sitting in a book- lined room in an 18th century townhouse full of words proved to be the perfect surroundings for inspiration.
Alan Sillitoe’s personal library beckoned. It does not necessarily reflect his Angry Young Men label, being refreshingly sprinkled with reading material as diverse as An Edwardian Lady’s Diary, a Jane Austen Memoir and a book on Pioneer Women. I feel doubtful that his most famous character, Arthur Seaton would settle down with such bedtime reading. It seems that the Jane Austen tome was a gift from his publisher and as I grapple with it, a hand written note drifts out , hoping Alan will like it and talking about repression and the irony of writing. The irony is enough to galvanise me to write a poem, “ The Life of Pioneer Women” .
Back to the concrete. I should have read the definition before I went :
” poetry in which the meaning or effect is conveyed partly or wholly by visual means, using patterns of words or letters and other typographical devices”
Kate patiently explained and demonstrated the form, yet still I heard only “Poetry” and was in equal parts befuddled and inspired by my fellow participants concrete efforts. I should have been cutting, drawing, glueing, modelling, forming and shaping. A rabbit hole of writing swallowed me whole and words were set down on a pristine page. Perhaps it was because I had walked in with Anne Frank’s line ringing in my ears: “ Paper has more patience than people…”
Bromley House is a house of dreams and words leapt out at me from each book I held. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, I will chisel away at them to sculpt something special.