Ruth Padel works with a group of poets who meet at Stalybridge Station buffet bar in Manchester. Testing their poems as they go, in a spirit of supportive criticism; tough love for poems.
Poetry Workshops are gathering all over the country. In the back rooms of pubs like this one, and in libraries and in front rooms, poets meet to sharpen their verse.
Ruth and the group work on three very different poems on the theme of 'journeys' - both symbolic and actual. One poem takes us to Zante via Watford Gap, one considers perspective and scale from on high, whilst another has a much darker tone. The group will pay particular attention this week to metaphor.
The group consider the use of metaphor in their poems that are touching, funny and perceptive. Ruthless support is applied as they chuck out each other's words and test and prune as they go.
They discuss the techniques, inspiration, wordplay and imagination that make poetry so enjoyable and rewarding. As well as working on their own poems, they also consider a poem by Carol Ann Duffy called Close.
Producer: Sarah Langan.
Close by Carol Ann Duffy
Lock the door. In the dark journey of our night
two childhoods stand in the corner of the bedroom
watching the way we take each other to bits
to stare at our heart. I hear a story
told in sleep in a lost accent. You know the truth.
Undress. A suitcase crammed with secrets
bursts in the wardrobe at the foot of the bed.
Dress again. Undress. You have me like a drawing,
erased, coloured in, untitled, signed by your tongue.
The name of a country written in red on my palm,
Unreadable. I tell myself where I live now,
but you move in close till I shake, homeless,
further than that. A coin falls from the bedside table,
spinning its heads and tails. How the hell
can I win. How can I lose. Tell me again.
Love won’t give in. It makes a hired room tremble
with the pity of bells, a cigarette smoke itself
next to a full glass of wine, time ache
into space, space, wants no more talk. Now
it has me where I want me, now you, you do.
Put out the light. Years stand outside on the street
looking up to an open window, black as our mouth
which utters its tuneless song. The ghosts of ourselves,
behind and before us, throng in a mirror, blind,
laughing and weeping. They know who we are.
I Heart Watford Gap by Rachel Davies
Your tee-shirt says ‘I ‘heart’ Zante’ and on the back
‘In Zante without panties’
and I think of the trip we took after our exam results,
driving at speed in boyfriends’ cars
along the new M1 to Watford Gap services
for a frothy coffee, feeding the jukebox
and Lesley Gore singing ‘It’s My Party’
and the boys calling us their birds and us
preening our feathers and chirping to be fed,
how we used to before we read de Bauvoir
and Greer, before we burned our bras
and I smile to think of a sixties tee shirt saying
‘I ‘heart’ Watford Gap’ but that was how we
cut the umbilical cord, severed the school tie,
travelled from schoolgirl to student as you’re doing now
so I know where you’re coming from
and I read your slogan not as a creed but as a cover up
for the myth of the sexual revolution.
But hey, it’s your party now.
In Flight by Joyce Reed
The river can take its time.
From above, lazy, washing field margins
in stillness of aircraft flight.
And farms, flattened in patterned lanes
with minutiae of dotted stock.
The river takes its time,
in no hurry to achieve the estuary
we shall not see. But then
an edge of land, shattered,
resisting the ocean that we do not hear.
And the ribbon wakes of boats and ships
frothing the sea with its flattened waves.
Maybe they see us taking our time,
brushing the canvas sky –
a contrail already erased
from where we distantly began.
Missed by Rod Whitworth
The first thing to go missing was the beat.
The engine skipped and then stopped
in the middle of the sandy road.
The next thing to go missing was the breath.
Hot and airless atmosphere
(if that’s not an oxymoron)
vacuumed life from lungs.
The next thing to go missing was me.
So who the hell’s telling this story,
this death valley serenade?
It must be you
or maybe it’s them:
They’re always thereputting in their two pennorth