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Episode 4

Poetry Workshop, Series 2 Episode 4 of 4

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 25 November 2012

The Shalom House Poets meet regularly in Belfast Central Library to dole out tough love on each other's poems. Ruth Padel joins them as they workshop their poems in a spirit of supportive criticism, going behind the scenes of a poem to find out which techniques work and which don't.
Ruth and the group work on three very different poems on the theme of 'windows'. One of them is an intricate observation of a sculpture in Salzburg, another is an enigmatic reflection on shadows, and there's a nostalgic and powerful recollection of a living room in Belfast.
The technical focus this week will be on inspiration and description .The group 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 very well know one by Louis MacNeice; 'Snow'.
Producer: Sarah Langan.

  • Johnnie's by Noreen Campbell


    Through an open half-door, light enters the dark kitchen,

    falls across the dresser,

    and sparkles among the brightly coloured delph.


    On the mantelpiece opposite,

    a stopped green-marble clock stands between a clear glass float

    and a rusting tin box.


    A black kettle hangs on a black crook,

    spits boiling water on a whitewashed hob,

    and Johnnie’s stick leans against a brown wooden armchair.


    On the back wall blue gingham curtains screen the outshot bed;

    a crucifix its only ornament

    and the chirr of crickets its background music.



    Through the paneless poor-law window,

    I see a tree growing through the rotted thatch-

    the half-door replaced by briers.


    To some, a wallstead

    To me, Johnnie’s.

  • Lattice Window by Robert Kirk

    (an observation of Tryptich – a sculpture by Jaume Plensa placed in Max Reinhardt Platz, Salzburg 26 August 2012). 


    Elevated on a black marble pedestal,

    kneels a man created in stainless steel

    upper case letters. I attempt to read him

    from several points of view – all nonsense

    words, beyond comprehension – a man

    without syntax – without substance;

    for light of day passing through this lattice

    window of reflective characters leave him

    imperceptible. Then, looking into the glassy

    hollowness of his mute supplication, see

    my deconstructed self...


  • Shadow of a Shadow by Tom Honey

    The marks on the pane are frail,

    like breath on glass yet transparent.

    Days later they still remain.


    The separate parts, slowly

    discerned as forming pattern,

    suggest wings stretched fully,


    soft breast, a spread fantail,

    shadow of a shadow,

    recording impact, a bird, maybe


    fleeing uncertain skies,

    or just failed navigation,

    yet no corpse on the window ledge.


    A passing image only, yet it calls

    to mind those teaching windows,

    figures grouped in glass,


    a dove hovering.



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