Present: Heather, Simon, Tricia (chair), Peter Morley, Peter Murphy, Alan (minutes), Greg, Carla, Amanda, Liz, Cathy
Apologies: Hilary, Sarah DD
Greg mentioned the Poetry Day open mic, which formed part of the Woking literary festival at the Lightbox on April 27. The open mic ran from 11am to 4pm, and included appearances by two performance poets, one established and one up and coming. WWC members Heather Cook and Amanda Briggs turned up on the day and read at the open mic.
Liz noted that the Book Group had read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. All had enjoyed this, finding it attractively written and inspirational. The group’s next book will be Bel Canto by Ann Pratchett. They plan to meet on May 13 but this may change to the 20th if the books don’t arrive from the library on time.
Amanda reviewed Hormonal Housewives by Julie Coombe and John MacIsaac, which she thoroughly enjoyed, and The House On Cold Hill, which she found dull and unoriginal. Both plays were performed at the New Victoria theatre, Woking. Her reviews appear on the Woking Writers Circle website.
On the table
Details of competitions, events or other literary items:
Carla brought a selection of haiku that she’d been inspired to write, following her recent visit to Japan, together with an anthology of this poetic form by Matsuo Basho.
The homework theme was either to write a cento, comprising lines and passages from diverse poems, or a “found” poem, in which the content of the poem is borrowed from some other piece of writing.
Carla read some of the Matsuo Basho haiku that she had written on to exquisite cards that she’d created, bearing a cherry blossom illustration on their covers. She explained that the Japanese prefer unfinished works, admiring the resultant sense of wistful regret. They contrast this with the perceived artificiality and false optimism frequently accompanying a completed piece. A brief discussion of the rules for haiku writing followed. Many found the poems’ imagery and descriptions attractive and uplifting.
Heather read Slippery Customers, detailing her childhood fascination with snails, particularly ‘Anubis’, her adopted favourite. Her contrasting loathing of slugs formed a very amusing counterpoint to this preference. Everyone admired the accomplished writing, in particular the subtle, dry anthropomorphism, vivid descriptions and wry, self-deprecating humour. Listeners encouraged Heather to seek publication of these pieces of wildlife writing, which have become such a popular feature of our meetings. Heather’s ability to convey the human elements of her relationships with animals attracted universal admiration. She was urged to consider a collection with a common theme. Liz mentioned the Woking News & Mail as a possible target publication.
Greg read a cento called ‘You Say I Come Alive At Such Moments’. He explained the cento principle and gave his sources. Admiration for and discussion of the Armitage quotation and metaphor followed, together with an enjoyable time in which members attempted to identify the other lines’ sources. All admired the originality and the skillful fusion of the disparate elements.
Alan read a very short flash fiction piece, entitled Dame Commander Tie, in which the gift of a tie patterned with ancient maps, to a land-based naval supremo ultimately saves a lost explorer vessel. This was well received. He then acknowledged that the second, very short piece owed its inclusion to Heather’s previous intro for her acclaimed short story, namely that she didn’t write short stories. This had set the precedent for him to announce that, not writing poetry, he had, nonetheless, contrived to write a poem. The poem was called ‘Encryption’ and dealt, over two brief verses, with a misheard entry phone request. Gratifying hilarity resulted.
Liz read an untitled piece about Buddhist vedanas, explaining that she was trying, by learning to use them, to inhibit sensations developing into thought or emotion. There can thus be painful or pleasant vedanas. Liz has kept a diary, while following an eight-week practical guide to mindfulness. This has covered various unrelated events and their effect on her vedanas, for example the improvement in happiness, following tidying her living room. One of the most memorably amusing passages concerned her telephone discussions with funeral directors, concerning inscriptions for her late mother’s headstone. The exchange of jokes about embalming, particularly one doctor’s horrified reaction to the illicit mechanical animation of a corpse, was hilariously enjoyable. Listeners also greatly admired the descriptions of canalside wildlife. Liz then explained that the bodily sensation of a vedana manifests before one expresses it verbally. Vedanas calmed her, made her feel rooted and helped her to deal with emotionally challenging problems.. In so doing, they have taught Liz to accept her feelings. The earthy realism of Liz’s writing was very favourably contrasted with the usual “omms, beards and earnestness,” of much mindfulness literature, to quote Amanda’s memorable usage. Liz intends to maintain her diary, hoping that her mastery of vedanas will improve in parallel with this discipline.
Amanda read Educational Times, a wonderfully Rabelaisian yet utterly contemporary skewering of teen and parental self-delusion, current educational mores and general academic pretentiousness. A daughter’s obviously fake enthusiasm for physics, ludicrously undermined by her all too obvious lack of aptitude, contained some brilliant satirising of the pretence, as the teacher employed the identical tactics. Amanda’s recounting of her own cataloguing of weighty physics concepts, such as general relativity and electromagnetic field theory, together with the daughter’s appalled expression, entertained us royally. Everyone urged Amanda to write more such pieces, albeit with due recourse to preventative legal advice, where necessary.
Simon read Coming Back, a beautifully descriptive story with an underlying theme of unattainable dreams and unrealistic ambitions. Simon had remembered reading that many couples split up shortly after a good holiday. The poetic rhythm and imagery of this piece were greatly admired, together with the poignant symbolism and original usage in the memorable descriptive passages.
Tricia read a cento, using lines taken from song lyrics instead of poems. The originality of this idea gave rise to exchanges, with a “guess the song” phase following the reading. Tricia achieved a uniformly admired continuity and cohesion of verse, revealing that selecting the material had taken her some time. She also mentioned having communicated with her husband via song lyrics, and that one of her most spontaneous choices had been Lady Gaga’s I’m off at the deep end. Tricia also attempted a found poem, electing to change punctuation in George Eliot’s ‘Blue Wings’. Altering the punctuation demonstrably changed the reported experience of having killed the butterfly, impressing everyone with an admirable demonstration of this effect.
Peter Morley read ‘Poetry In Motion’, based on “expressions that rattle around in an engineer’s brain”. The piece listed various theorems from mathematics and a range of engineering disciplines, skillfully linking these to their originators’ names. The poem then progressed to review some applications of these concepts to physical problem solving and creative design. All admired the thematic justification of an engineer’s existence and practical contributions to life, together with the satisfyingly rhythmic style and flow. The original nature of the material added much to the poetic feel of the work. Peter was heartily encouraged, despite his initial diffidence, to write more such pieces. The metaphoric treatment of physical concepts triggered discussion of the potential for imagery in any such future poems. Peter’s skillful interrelation of various concepts was greatly admired, from both a structural and emotional viewpoint. Engineers’ personalities, psychological profiles and social characteristics then came under the spotlight.
Chair: Simon; Minutes: Heather; Wine: Peter Murphy; Milk & Biscuits: Carla
Homework: Cherry Blossom