Language, Poetry and Leanne Moden, a workshop.

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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 :

Self- Centred.

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.


Write Like A Girl , workshop 3

Write Like A Girl , workshop 3

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
Poetry Cocktail

Write Like A Girl is an art project  being run by the talented Helen Cross. Yippee!

Write Like A Girl is an art project being run by the talented Helen Cross. Yippee!

Workshop Number 2.

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

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.

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A poem for the Brexit debacle.

A poem for the Brexit debacle.

All In A Daze.

We file into the chamber- more debate
Egos have blown up in our red faces
Leaving Europe come what May, oh too late,
Emperor’s clothes are missing, your Graces
Naked truth confronts wicked lies of men
Power grabbers set the country ablaze
David did it with one stroke of his pen
Long hidden and run away from our gaze
No choice now but to make a decision
A land divided needs strength, seeks vision.

Gail Webb

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Concrete Poetry at Bromley House Library

Concrete Poetry at Bromley House Library

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.