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The Art of Poetic Volunteering

The Art of Poetic Volunteering

The first week of workshops flew by with a dusting of screenwriting, a shimmy around poetry and a relaxing stroll through long form fic. Despite some teething troubles with the technology (Microsoft Outlook) it's going very well so far :)

Glutton for Poetic Punishment

I think I acquired Uma Thurman's arm this week. I seem to have volunteered myself to be amongst the first students submitting their writing for critique by classmates.

The poetry modules have the smallest numbers of students signed up for them — Poetry 1 (first semester) has 9 members and Poetry 2 (second semester) drops to 7 (I am one of the drop outs!). By way of comparison, in my other first semester modules there are 24 members split into two groups of 12 for Long Form Fiction, and Screenwriting has 18 members in one group.

So, to my over-eager right hand ... most of the workshops will require us to write a piece for comment by the tutor and fellow classmates. Each week one or two members' work will have a more rigorous workshopping. This is not an unfamiliar process to me since we did this a few times in the weekly creative writing group I attended in Cwmbran. Most of the other Poetry 1 members are pretty new to poetry so, since I have a couple of hundred poems twiddling their thumbs suitable for workshopping, I stuck my hand up and offered to put my head on the block for the first poem to be workshopped — more on that later ;)


I think the Long Form Fiction module is going to be the most intense, in terms of how much we have to read and write each week. Although we'll be doing close readings of small sections of different novels, we are expected to have read the novels in their entirety too!

At the moment I have read precisely 1 of the novels ... rather fortuitously it is the one we are doing next week, The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant. I enjoyed this book a lot when I read it, so this week my priority is to read the sections we're focussing on in class on Thursday, and I need to get a move on reading Atonement by Ian Mcewan.

In LFF class this week we looked at a piece of writing by Virginia Woolf. We have been tasked with using it as a guide to focussing on the characters and locations in our writing.

I begin: the first memory.
This is of red and purple flowers on a black ground – my mother’s dress: and she is sitting either in a train or in an omnibus, & I am on her lap. I therefore saw the flowers she was wearing very close; and can still see purple and red and blue, I think, against the black; they must have been anemones, I suppose.
(from Moments of Being by Virginia Woolf)

We started by describing the person sat next to us. Sitting next to me was Leah, who told me she was wearing purple glasses, had purple hair and a septum ring. I think I turned her into a Spanish bull fighter tormenting Giles Turnbull by waving a purple rag! Leah described my quiet voice as hiding a lot of knowledge ... that might be true ... lots of useless knowledge! ;)

So then it came to the right arm exercise again ... who wants to write a piece using Virginia's techniques? Yet again that darn arm of mine couldn't keep itself down! Now I'm not usually the fastest thinker of ideas to write about ... but an idea scratched my neural networks (that's neural, as in relating to the brain, not Nermal, the world's cutest kitten). SO I decided to run with it and volunteer to be workshopped ... thankfully I am joined by Dawn who also volunteered :)

Poetic Evolution

I thought of my poem, Wandering Eyes, which I recorded and talked about in post 118 on this blog just 7 weeks ago. That poem features 4 of the Greek gods and I suddenly imagined the gods being transferred into humans and, in doing so, I managed to move these humans into Paris. I really like the idea behind what I've come up with and hope to develop it further (unless everybody else in LFF thinks it's a steaming pile of foie gras).

We are expected to write between 500 and 1,000 words, and Dawn and I have both landed somewhere in the 600s :) What I love is that Dawn has taken one approach and I have taken a different one, so we've produced very different texts :)

Poetry Out of the Spotlight

For next week all poetry 1 students need to write a poem about when we each first knew something that would stay with us all our lives. A couple of mornings earlier I'd heard the beautiful sounds of an owl drifting across campus from Singleton Park, followed not much later by the shouts of morning seagulls. It dawned on me that it was a sound I'd grown to love over 10 years of living in Swansea a long time ago, and that I still have the city right at my core. SO I wrote a poem about that — three stanzas, 6 lines each, incorporating the owl, the gulls and drunken students;)

Guest Spots

We have a creative writing poet and playwright coming to talk to us, if we wish to attend, next week ... Patrick Jones. I picked up a book of his poetry at a Manic Street Preachers gig in Cardiff, back around the time they were launching their album Everything Must Go sometime circa 1996. On the merch stall was Patrick's poetry, The Guerrilla Tapestries, and I bought it :) I didn't see Patrick at that time so I'm very much looking forward to meeting him next week in person :)

In Other News

I ventured to the gym for the first time this week with my personal assistant. We dropped my laundry in at a launderette, then did my shopping at Sainsbury's and then headed off to the gym after unpacking and labelling my sustenance for the week. The Sports |Village uses the same type of treadmill as does the leisure centre in Abergavenny where I've been going for 3 years ... but they are different! They have little paddles for adjusting incline and speed with a flick up or down, so I can mostly do that all by myself ... I need my sighted assistant, Medina, to tell me how fast or what incline I'm on periodically, but then I can oscillate around that as the mood hits me :)

In more important other news, my reading in Torquay is rapidly approaching. So, if you fancy coming to hear me and my screen reader Hazel perform the whole of my Dressing Up pamphlet and do Q&A and have tea and biscuits, get yourself down to:

The Livermead Cliff Hotel,
Torquay Seafront. TQ2 6RQ.
Sunday 21 October at 10.00 to 11.15am.
Tickets are £7.50 inc tea/biscuits.

My increasingly urgent tasks prior to that are to finish creating the audiobook version of the pamphlet, Dressing Up, make sure my memorised poems are sharp and secure in my brain, and to shut my bedroom window because Sunday seems to be the day that a uni groundsman likes to get is insanely loud strimmer device out and play with it.

The Art of Volunteering #Poetry #Screenwriting #LongFormFiction #SwanseaUniversity #PatrickJones #ManicStreetPreachers #DressingUp @WritingUni @heretic101

Published ineducationPoetry


  1. Frances Browner Frances Browner

    Glad it’s all going so well Giles, I remember the excitement and nerves going back to study after many years. Best of luck!

  2. Helena Nelson Helena Nelson

    Your pleasure and excitement in the activity of this course is sparkling through this blog! Lovely.

    • Giles Giles

      today I’ve been researching some interesting stuff for a 1000 word story for the Long Form Fiction module next week. It has involved the anatomy of snails and Mont Blanc fountain pens! I’m loving this course! 🙂 xx

  3. Sorry, I’ve been out of town and without wifi, so I have a lot of catching up to do! I’ve saved all the notices and will intersperse the with other tasks this week. It sounds like you are having a fabulous time. I’m quite curious about your 3 stanza-6 lines each poem, so I hope you will be posting it, if you haven’t already.

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