Friday, 19 October 2018

Review of "Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary": A poetry workshop with Cathy Grindrod


At the beginning of the workshop (an Everybody's Reading event) we were asked what image came to mind when we heard the word ‘change’, and each participant described something different. The exercise was to demonstrate that the image that comes to mind is the place to start a poem, to be ourselves in our writing, and to use our experiences in our own way.

Working in pairs, we generated answers to a selection of ‘What is …?’ questions (for example, the moon, a bat, a seed). This encouraged us to think beyond the obvious and focus on the precision of words to create fresh descriptions. To illustrate this further, we read ‘Refrigerator, 1957’ by Thomas Lux, and discussed the phrases that made an impact and brought the poem alive. Maraschino cherries were ‘fiery globes, / like strippers at a church social’ in contrast to a ‘childhood of dull dinners – bald meat, / pocked peas’.

Fruit and vegetables provided the prompt for one of the longer writing activities. We were invited to combine close observation with associations and life experiences to create a poem of eight lines. Cathy Grindrod encouraged us to look at everyday objects with fresh eyes, to enjoy the words in our writing, and to subvert the norm to surprise the reader. After fifteen minutes, we had produced a wide variety of ideas in our first drafts: plums inspired childhood memories and reflections on regional accents; and an orange prompted a poem about a child’s hope to grow their own tree.

Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary included all the essential elements of a successful poetry workshop: a small number of participants; analysis of poems by published poets; a combination of short and longer writing activities; time to give and receive feedback on each other’s writing; and ideas for further development.

About the reviewer
Karen Powell is studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. Her poetry has been published in various anthologies and magazines including Welcome to Leicester: poems about the city, The Interpreter’s House and Silver Birch Press.

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