Workshop Blog 05/06/23

The time has come, the walrus said, to speak of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of poets and short-fiction writers extraordinaire. Well, if the walrus had any sense that’s what she would have said. Because last night we had an extraordinary display of talent, in amusing, sad, painful, beautiful, and just about any other form you care to mention. Loads of brilliant stuff just kept pouring out. So I decided not to read and everyone should thank their lucky stars for that great mercy. But we had a good attendance this week, and managed to squeeze in quite a few readers. A total of 16 attended, including two first-timers and a few people who were dropping in and out, owing to the vagaries of the internet in South Wales. (Stephanie was fine but then she was dialled in from Georgia USA.) We heard seven readers and also from our two first-timers – Hughey and Roger – who both read pieces of their work.


We began with our late of New York but now living in Cardiff young gentleman Bruce, who gave us a short story called seven letters. This was very clever, about someone writing letters to people to tell them exactly what he thinks of them and their actions, because he is about to commit suicide. This had great detail about Cardiff and also about the state of the central character’s mind. There was an excellent twist at the end, and the group was divided about which way to reveal and what the reveal should be, but the majority agreed that Bruce had the ending pretty much correct. Great stuff.


Next up was Angela, who gave us some poems. First there was a short poem possibly to be called Tree, then there was another fairly short poem definitely called Pavement Tree, and finally there was another blast of Haikus, which Angela has nailed as yet another form she can claim mastery over. (Perhaps Misstery?) All three readings were beautiful and the imagery of trees was fandabbydozy. (That’s a traditional Scottish term if anyone is unsure.)


Sharif then took us on a totally different journey, with his free-form poem Turn Left At Camelot, which was inspired by a writing prompt ‘UTOPIAS’. This was wonderful, including such gems as ‘Play the blues backwards’ and then at the end we had ‘sleub… sleub…) which brought forth some impressed laughter. You don’t get this stuff on ‘Poetry Please’. This was quite Alice-in-Wonderlandy and really surreal.


Another of our talented poets was also tasked with the same writing prompt, but Sarah decided to not read her example on the evening. Instead, Sarah gave us So-long See-Saw Swan, which I have tried to say after several beers, without much success I might add. This was also a bit ‘Alicey’ and was a bit of a ‘shape’ poem but Sarah decided to not show us it; instead she read it and we loved it. Then she spoilt the mood by telling us it was about Swansea, but we can forgive her that as it really was so clever. Again there was great imagery.


We then asked Hughey, the first of our newcomers, to tell us about his ambitions and goals. Hughey recently moved from Buckinghamshire, where it didn’t rain enough for him, and he has been writing for several years. He has previously mainly written SF and horror, but is trying to spread his net wider, though the piece he read to us, entitled Work In Progress, was about time-stopping. Hughey has a refreshing approach and his descriptions of what was happening and how the central character felt about everything were excellent. Currently, he is unsure whether to try and keep it science-based in terms of explanations, but believes he may need to dip into fantasy or magic in order to get everything to work well enough to please discerning readers. We need to hear more please Hughey.


Next up was Roger, our other newcomer, who cannot remember a time when he was not writing, but recently he has been challenging himself to write poems and other works in strict forms. He then read us a villanelle, which as you all will know has a very strict form. Holiday Rag was very funny and engaging and it did work as a villanelle, so well done there. I loved the way Roger covered emotional baggage as well as physical. Yet more great stuff everyone.


We then heard from Stephanie, who read us two poems; Vestige Valley and Between The Lines. These both had brilliant language use with alliteration, in-line rhyming (kind of) and almost rhymes that teased but also held you tight to the work. I especially loved ‘ghostly guardians’, ‘memoir many moons ago’ and ‘maroon monsoons’. Steve queried the use of a throwaway reference to the year 1889 and asked whether this was the year of the gunfight at the OK corral. Turns out that was nothing to do with it, and that particular event was in 1881, but it still worked. Stephanie may choose to change it. Who knows? The poems were described as Bob Dylan at his best, and that’s a damned good comparison. They are hereby attached for everyone reading this on the emailouts, but unfortunately not for those on FB or Twitter or the web-page.


The difficult task of following Stephanie was handed to David, who read a short story, The Displacement Artist, which was as impressive as it was horrific. This was all about someone who kills murderers but then finds paintings/drawings of his deeds and doesn’t know how or why. Now that’s a brief description of an excellent short story which David should certainly send off for a competition. Blinking flip how come everyone is so good?


Last to read was Ian, with a reworked story involving food but not simply about that. It was also not a comedy, though you could hear Ian’s laughing prose style all the way through. The ending was sad but also happy, with the whole tale being emotional and beautiful. Ian had to stop a few times as it brought back family memories for him. Thank you for sharing Ian.


Matt and Jeff will be first up next time as there was insufficient time for them to read. This Saturday – 10th – we are at the Wellfield Road bookshop performing readings and Q&Aing, so zip over to EventBrite and grab some free tickets. And next Monday – 12th – is our short story adjudication at the YMCA with the fabulous Gail Williams; published author and mainstay of Gwyl Cymru – Crime Festival Wales. Do not miss this. Below are a couple of writing competitions you may wish to enter. Go on. Have a go.




Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize  

Forward-prize winner Caleh Femi judges this year, with winners receiving a £1,000, mentorship and print and online publication in Wasafiri’s magazine.


Aesthetica Creative Writing Award 

Winners receive up to £5000, a 5-Day Arvon course, subscriptions to Granta and Mxlexia, membership to the Poetry Society, publication in our anthology and more.

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