Wednesday, 6 May 2015

At Lumb Bank 1

View from tutor's window
I still intend to post the keynote talk from Malatya but this week I am away at Lumb Bank teaching a Starting to Write course with Monique Roffey who is doing fiction while I do poetry. The days are full as ever, and though I wrote the brief account below late last night this morning is my first opportunity of posting it. There is no wifi in the place apart from in the office to which tutors have access and if one stays up relatively late talking to students the time is pretty well taken up.

We have fifteen students, one having cried off late. Thirteen of them are women, mostly on the younger side of older, and two men. The proportion is not untypical. The reasons for that must be long and complex but the territory the reasons cover is hard to venture into, chiefly because it is mined and will remain so for a long time. I will venture into the territory at some point but not now. It is late, I am back in my room. Monique and I have just done our readings and have sat around to chat, partly about novels generally, then about romance, romantic love, Le Rouchefoucauld, Robert Graves and the White Goddess even touching on Fifty Shades of Grey.

It is the end of the first full day of teaching. I have taken the first morning session on, essentially, imagery, This is preceded by a good deal of talk about the nature of the poetic process and enterprise and on the kind of things it may produce given certain circumstances. What are the differences between poems and stories. What about the relationship with language as both the visual and the auditory. I give them Karl Shapiro’s prose notes for his poem, The Fly. We talk about Imagism and Haiku. I set them a haiku to do, and suggest they extend it to a series, then we look at Vasko Popa. This is old ground to me but new to them.

This being a Starting to Write group the assumption must be that they haven’t done much writing. None of them have been on an Arvon Course before. I myself have never been on one as a student but I have been teaching them for well over thirty years. Nevertheless it is a new start every time because the people are new, the chemistry is new, the fellow tutor is new, possibly the course director is new. Jack, our cook is a virtuoso at quickly producing a classy meal out of whatever is to hand. We eat well. He just cooks the first night, the rest of the dinners are produced by teams according to set recipes, but Jack does produce the lunch.

The rain has been falling lightly, as if finely sieved, on and off most of the day. It seems appropriate here. I can hear the water gurgling in streamlets and channels. First days are ice breakers and openings that don’t mean we fall through the ice and drown.

As for me, I float. It is all floaty. One touches on things then they are gone and we’re elsewhere. Something accumulates though we can't be certain what. I write when I can. There was a poem this morning. About rain. And lo! there was rain.


Poetry Pleases! said...

Dear George

Thirteen of the students are women! Where do I sign up?

Best wishes from Simon R. Gladdish

Clarissa Aykroyd said...

It's a Starting to Write group and you had them reading Vasko Popa? That's brilliant - hit them where it hurts! (in a good way!)