Ann Sansom at the Poetry School
Frankly one just hopes that being in the presence of such a warm but powerful and gritty poet, with two full length collections ‘Romance’ and In Praise of Men and Other People’, and countless poems published in magazines etc, something of her magic will brush off. Luckily she is as well known for her workshops, so it does.
The fact that she is so knowledgeable about poetry and writes so much herself, does not exclude those in her workshop from feeling that all is possible. From the moment she starts a warm-up, she tells everyone they are to write for two minutes without any pre-conceived ideas about content or quality. Nothing will be read out or shared, so one feels confident in her presence.
Something that happened on our way to The Poetry School is the first topic. I ramble on about how hard it was to choose a birthday card for my nineteen year old grandson in Paperchase on Victoria Station, when in fact it had been easy. A cat blowing a paper trumpet. Why not!
This exercise safely completed, we move on. Example of poems are given out, more timed exercises, usually quite short, but all the better for not having to write to impress. In fact Ann is a keen advocate of trusting oneself and saying what one needs to. By this time several poets are happy to share their efforts. It has to be said some poets were quite experienced.
The workshop was about a sense of place and we had been encouraged to bring a postcard of a favourite place or destination. We were given specific ways of looking at the material and writing about it.
The afternoon was spent on critiques, working in pairs on something written in the morning or a work in progress we had brought with us. As it happened I had been delving into Peter Sansom’s book ‘Writing Poems’ over the last few weeks. My work in progress a poem about a new life by sea and came from an idea in the book. I could not get right either the title or ending.
My partner in crime shared her poem about being a ‘beloved’ and I believe I helped her cut a bit of the description three stanzas on. She challenged me about some of images included in my poem and we discussed the title too. In the end I made very few alterations in accordance with Ann’s ‘trust yourself” mantra, but did change the title.
We ended up by reading some of our amended poems, leaving with notes and ideas and, for some, even one of two poems completed.
Ann kindly signed my ancient copy of ‘Romance’ and when I got home I signed up for the Samsons’ website newsletters.
I have been on other poetry courses and sometimes they have proved to be a bit cliquey or too intellectual and occasionally a tutor allows one or more students take more than their fair share of the time available.
A sunny day, a trip from Brighton up to Lambeth Palace, an inspirational course. I must have been in the right place at the right time. My new notebook has been christened with drafts, I have a few more uses for my holiday postcards. Well done Poetry School, she can come again!
Ann and Peter Samson’s website http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/
Poetry school in Lambeth http://www.poetryschool.com/
If my poetry partner at the workshop happens to read this, do get in touch wish we had exchanged emails. Ann
I’m a strong believer in the writer having the right not to share. My conviction comes from a workshop I attended where the tutor – a well known poet – forced everyone to read out after a short against the clock exercise at the very start of the weekend when we were still getting to know each other. One woman wrote about being raped. She didn’t know she would have to read out (had never been to a workshop before so didn’t know what to expect). She was very brave but it just felt so wrong. Thanks for writing about an excellent workshop….sounds inspirational
Yes, I’ve had similiar experiences. Sadly, too, often really good writers in different genres try to subsidise their often modest incomes by teaching, without knowing or perhaps even caring that teaching is a skill in it’s own right.