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Episode 1

Poetry Workshop, Series 1 Episode 1 of 4

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 31 July 2011

Poet Ruth Padel launches the first edition in a four part landmark series "Poetry Workshop" which taps into the excitement and pleasures of writing and reading poetry. More and more of us are connecting with poetry for pleasure or emotional insight, for memorable comfort at moments of personal crisis, and to discover new ways of seeing our own lives. Unprecedented access to poems and poets means that any of us can engage with it even if we have felt shut out from it in the past. Poetry and its fans are everywhere - on the underground, internet and in science labs; on the stage at slams and festivals; in pubs, schools, colleges and in workshops and reading groups. Radio 4's Poetry Workshop aims to deepen the experience for those who love to spend time with poetry and to open up to everybody new ways of connecting with it. By exploring how specific poems work in a practical setting the series will profile the talent and enormous enthusiasm for poetry round the country. The first workshop comes from Exeter where members of ExCite - one of the Poetry Society's regional "Stanza" groups - join Ruth Padel and fellow poet Lawrence Sail to work on some of their poems in progress. Radio 4 listeners get to eavesdrop as Ruth and Lawrence guide the Workshop members through the process of writing and improving their poems, sharing practical and inspirational pointers as well as encouraging new ways of thinking. As they go behind the scenes of the poems to look at their techniques, language and wordplay, they reveal the creative processes and craft that make poetry so rewarding.

Ruth Padel is the author of 'Darwin - A Life in Poems'; the best-selling book '52 Ways of Looking at a Poem'.

Producers: Sara Davies and Sarah Langan.

  • Bike Ride on a Roman Road by Alice Oswald.

    This Roman road - eye's axis
    over the earth's rococo curve-
    is a road's road to ride in a dream.

    I am bound to a star,
    my own feet shoving me swiftly.

    Everything turns but the North is the same.

    Foot Foot, under the neck-high bracken
    a little random man, with his head in a bad
    controversy of midges,
    flickers away singing Damn Damn

    and the line he runs is serpentine,
    everything happens at sixes and sevens,
    the jump and the ditch and the crooked stile…

    and my two eyes are floating in the fields,
    my mouth is on a branch, my hair
    is miles behind me making tributaries
    and I have had my heart distracted out of me,
    my skin is blowing slowly about without me

    and now I have no hands and now I have no feet.

    This is the road itself
    riding a bone bicycle through my head.

  • Snipe by Roselle Angwin

    Never before but in snow, lately, from between
    the woodland margins at the crux of day and night
    a snipe has startled from the peat and russet leaves
    now rimed and crackling; in its swift-winged flight

    ghosting the snow-lit dusk I’m reminded
    of a shade I can’t quite catch from the hinterlands
    of my mind. Something magical in its silence,
    its speed, that long bill piercing the wind;

    something hidden; so that today when I read
    Heaney speaking of the soul as weighing ‘roughly
    the same as a snipe’ the words snatch my breath;
    its name ¬– snipe snipe snipe – all day as I go about
    soothing my throat, taken up residence in my chest.

  • Strata by Katie Moudry

    Vast bands of sky and sea and sand
    layered like rock strata,

    the sand’s seaweed veined skin
    pulled tight by wind, the sea

    welded flat to the shoreline;
    white crested waves crumble
    like chalk into flint grey water,

    granite clouds press down hard
    enough to sharpen a blade on.

    This landscape runs through me
    as I run through it, crack it

    open and you’ll find me there,
    a seam of something different
    caught between its layers.

  • This is the Fungus time of Year by Simon Williams. Original

    When the days are beginning to rot,
    piled up like woodsman’s tidyings,
    the bits that can’t be bodged together
    filling the back-end of September,

    then the tiny heads of toughshank poke
    through like fingertips, hand after hand.
    Toes of wolf’s milk, glans of wax-cap push
    pine slivers aside, make it to the sporadic sun.

    Too effete for photosynthesis, they mature
    open-handed, hides like still fawns
    you could pass two feet away
    and swear were never there.

    Fungi steal nourishment underground.
    White veins lace dead things, feeling
    what they were, drawing final essences
    to make a litter bed, a soil.

    As the caps deteriorate, bits broken
    from the rims like a short girl’s nibblings,
    daylight tumbles into other months;
    the half-live spores of December and January.

  • This is the Fungus Time of Year by Simon Williams. Post-workshop

    When the days are beginning to rot,
    piled up like woodsman’s tidyings,
    the bits that can’t be bodged together
    filling the back-end of September,

    then the tiny heads of toughshank poke
    through like fingertips, hand after hand.
    Toes of wolf’s milk, glans of wax-cap push
    pine slivers aside, make it to the sporadic sun.

    Too sly for photosynthesis, they mature
    open-handed, hides like still fawns
    you could pass two feet away
    and swear were never there.

    Fungi pilfer underground;
    white veins lace dead things, feeling
    what they were, drawing final essences
    to make a litter bed, a soil.

    As the caps deteriorate, bits broken
    from the rims like a short girl’s nibblings,
    daylight tumbles into other months;
    the half-live spores of December, January.

  • Mendeleev's Horse by Rachel McCarthy

    For Maria Dmitrievna Mendeleeva (1793-1850)


    The cold will take it first
    or worse, the wolves


    an unshakable sickness
    shadowing the horizon.


    Remember this Dmitri,
    trust in what you sense but can’t see;


    the warm, dark woods to the west;
    that Moscow’s only weeks away;


    that my love howls
    louder than this wind.


    But it’s just as deaf – Elizabeth
    I wish I hadn’t brought you with us.


    How your brother’s plight consumes us,
    blooms in your lungs, stiffens your bones,


    I know child, I know,
    but see the horse hollow its grave,


    each take what you can carry:
    schi, cedar nuts, bread,


    think the rest a sacrifice, a need
    for you Dmitri, for belief.

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