Beyond the familiar


At a recent GWG poetry workshop, Steve Knight sought to coax us beyond our familiar use of words. As adults and seasoned writers, we tend to anticipate where our choices are leading and, if we are skilled, we end up with the planned surprises of craftsmanship. Unpredictable clashes and unexpected encounters, especially outside poetry, become rare. This rareness is reinforced by our practice of critiquing, where we tend to critique out words that are surprising or unusual.

One of the important lessons of this workshop for me was to get a better grasp of the way a writer leaves room for the reader. This is particularly the case in poetry, but is also so in good fiction. It is more difficult in storytelling because you don’t want to have the reader wander off down an untraced path, straying beyond the limits of the world of the story. When that happens, the reader pulls up short in incomprehension, and he or she is lost to the story.

The following text began during Steve’s workshop and continued afterwards. I enjoyed experimenting writing beyond the habitual contraints of storytelling, leaving avenues open, discovering the power of suggesting meaning. I didn’t set out to write a poem, I am really not a poet, but to explore telling a story differently than I usually do.

The Walls

I survey the walls that once embraced the town
Atop these we kids as kings and queens did reign
Our shouts now echoes by the breeze borne home
“Please don’t go,” I hear her plead. “Please don’t”
Beyond the causeway, the London express runs late
While whistling impatient, the Swanage train snakes out
Carrying with it sea-salty memories of hands clasped tight
Between windswept crowns the Norman tower peers down
Timeless devotions of a conquest worn smooth on stone
Donning my bag, I wade through grasses to the stream below
Swirls of sadness clutch its curves, straining hard at my resolve
On I trudge till below the road the stream sinks out of sight
Then, with a perfumed flourish, I pull her letter out
And, leaning on the gate, unleash her words once more

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