An you come rushin troo

The poem by Linton Kwesi Johnson, 'Sonny's Lettah', depicts a young black man who is arrested for the murder of a policeman in London. He tells the story to his mother, writing her a letter from Brixton prison. While waiting for a bus, he and his little brother Jim were accosted by three white policemen. They picked on Jim and accused him of theft. Jim backed away but the police attacked him and started beating him up. Sonny intervened to protect Jim and accidentally killed a policeman. Now he...

BucketAnd you listening

With these few words Ted Hughes has invented a way of giving us setting, sound, time, event and atmosphere in the space of a mere twenty-one syllables. Just as the evening seems to respond to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket, so the little girl responds at the end of the poem to the moon, pointing at it and shouting out 'Moon Moon '. Hughes's whole concentration is focused on a moment when sensitiveness of response- reactions reaches maximum intensity, in the poem's own words like 'a...

Chapter Writing As

Writers build up worlds, make them real, emphasise and illumi-nate them through images. Through voices they hold our attention, remind us of the varying tones of speech. Through stories told and heard they show the way our thoughts are shaped by narrative, how we shape the thoughts and lives of others and ourselves. From among the features by which we identify writing as an art form, in this first chapter I have selected four that produce a consistently powerful impact for writers and readers....

Dialect and Diversity

In the middle of the last century, the Russian literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin called attention to voices used creatively by writers. 'Diversity of speech', he wrote, 'is the ground of style', and commenting particularly of the novel 'For the prose artist the world is full of other people's words, among which he must orient himself and whose speech characteristics he must be able to perceive with a very keen ear' (Bakhtin, 1984 200-1). In his book After Bakhtin, David Lodge, himself a prolific...

Finding a Voice

If creative language frequently makes use of voiced forms, does this mean each writer is burdened with the quest to discover his or her unique voice, something expressly original among this huge polyphony of voices The notion of 'your own voice', 'finding a voice', refers to a writer's stance towards all the creative features of writing as art, including, of course, voice itself. Your voice will be generated by what you write about, the recurrent places, aspects and qualities of the world you...

Getting Started Ideas for Good Practice

Start looking and listening more closely to what is around you. Begin to write brief sketches of scenes witnessed, for example, in a street, among people, at a public event. Try to find the best words to capture things glimpsed fleetingly. Include as many sense impressions as you can. Write in your workbook regularly every day. If you don't have anything you want to write, try free-writing, letting your pen take you where it wants to go. Don't worry about being...

Hear not my steps which way they walk

(Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act II scene I) At this moment I am typing Shakespeare's text into a word processor. Until printed it only exists on a screen, but clearly this space is not the same as the one within our minds as we hear it happening. To retrieve it from being just writing inside a book you will need to read the piece from Macbeth aloud and let it come into being inside your thoughts it gathers pace, builds, rushes forward. The page is flat, screenlike and uneventful, but the space of...

Illusions as he list phantasms and dreams

These passages from Shakespeare and Milton imply that the power of language can indeed be fearful something more than just words when judged for effect. These writers correctly acknowledge the power that lies in their hands, not just in the hands of their villainous counterparts. The ultimate aim of Milton's poem is to whisper things conceived as a force for good, but the power of the whisper is the same a transforming power, it gets inside the feelings and inclinations close to the ear, it...

IMAGE Words as Images

They realise words can do something amazing. Sometimes this love-affair goes on in front of our eyes. In Pinter's plays we sense the writer collecting certain words and phrases out of the mouths of his characters, holding them up to the light, making a display of galleried language even while he's equally interested in two old women, for example, talking in a caf late at night, or a husband and wife discussing the strength of the sun on a hot afternoon in...

Imagination

The first is that no one can write anything of significance to themselves (and therefore, it follows, to anybody else) unless imagination is allowed to play a major part in the process. Worlds and spaces in writing as art can't be made real without the imaginative play of the mind remembering, selecting, attending. Memory is often the primary source of imaginative experience. Not all memories stored away in the inaccessible filing-system of our ordinary minds attract the same level of...

Our Grief Is Not A Cry For

Parallelisms, reversals, verbal play do these lines, singly or together, make up writing we might call 'creative In a world that faces increasing numbers of unsolved public questions, should writers aim to preserve a distance, not get involved, or, on occasions when involvement beckons, stick to the well-tried writing-workshop approach of 'show' don't 'tell' The slogans exhibit features we might well describe as creative, not least because to awaken response they make strange what was familiar...

Story

Story occurs whenever importance is attached to events in time. This phenomenon happens so frequently that it seems fundamental to how we communicate. The events may have happened to somebody else, not to the speaker or writer. Whatever the listening, speaking, reading situation, we can assume that when any form of storytelling occurs, it has a purpose to entertain, instruct, inform, enlighten. In the last four stanzas of 'Sandra Lee Scheuer', Geddes imagines two linked interwoven sets of...

Story and Change

Whereas the other features of creative language operate by bringing us in close, showing more of the world, exposing the inherent attributes of a person or scene, story drives us forward through and beyond. Richard in Pinter's The Lover tries to fix the meaning of 'blind'. Lois's paintings in Atwood's story will always reveal the irreclaimable presence of her friend. The point about making images is to make them stay in place the statue that will never be dislodged from the public square the...

Story and Performancer The Oral Tradition

Performance poetry also shares something with the art of narrative enactment. Asked about the influences on his writing, Adrian Mitchell comments, 'I think it goes back to the ballads. I can recall the impact of Sir Patrick Spens. It was that simplicity you find in the old ballads.then later came the attraction of the voice, the delivery' (Munden, 1999 32). In oral traditions, songs and ballads declare that something worth our attention has happened. We know the story already, yet whenever the...

Suggestions for Writing

The conditions under which writing happens, both physical and emotional, is a topic of much fascination and little certainty. We can only guess what causes the seeds to grow. But we do know that writing workshops sometimes allow the imagination a chance to create those conditions. The imagination acts as a form of flight simulator, so that although you are actually sitting at a desk and writing, you are also, in your imagination, somewhere else, writing in the voice of someone else, maybe a...

That has been hurting her

The art of this poem (as in the passage from Macbeth) is its organisation. It could have moved straight from the subject of the sentence ('A big young bareheaded woman') to the rest of the main clause ('pulls out the paper insole to find the nail'), but the intervening phrases delay the verb and all the information it supplies. Why The poem needs to place this information at the point where it will surprise us. The structure prolongs our attention in the same way and for the same length of time...

The Moving Edge

By the time you read this book, events dominating the present news in the world will be history. Mostly we are living in ordinary time then something happens, a break with what we expected or thought predictable. We pass into the extraordinary, into story. Once across the threshold we find suspense, crisis, resolution, closure or lack of closure, the conventions of oral and written stories that correspond to shaped time in experience. Love and loss, illness and recovery, departure, return,...

Under the hot floodlights of spring

The cherries ripen under a hot blue sky, and healing seems a natural process, but the last lines correct that impression. The process involves the heavy engineering of the operating room with its overhead power-lamps. The poem brings the mechanical and natural together in one stunning metaphor 'the hot floodlights of spring'. Despite their gradual convergence we experience this final conjunction as a shock. Just at the moment when we thought of spring as the healing force, we are reminded of...

Voices under Pressure

MacPherson's play is set in a pub in a remote part of Ireland. Voices of people in a bar in any region will be influenced by their surroundings. Is there a pool table, wide-screen TV Background noise, even background silence Degrees of relaxation and tension influence speech, just as they do other types of behaviour. Talking never happens in the abstract. He said it on that day, in that place, and had these been different .who knows This question applies to writers, too. All writing is...

What if Time Stopped

Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare Bold lover never never canst thou kiss, Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair Keats was obsessed with time and here in 'Ode On A Grecian Urn' he puts his finger on its pulse so that it does stop. He chose a moment when it was beating fast. Bliss is deferred until the next moment, yet he keeps his finger...

When the meadow is dead is a carpet thin and shabby with no pattern

The poem's meaning is in its vitality, and depends not just on contrasts but on the relative position of the scenes. In this version, the positive tone of the poem is lost completely. Which two-line stanza would make the most chilling ending In the following example by W.S.Graham, the poem's subject is a storm at sea where there have been casualties, but the treatment is to weave those details into a frieze, a monument, to emphasise metaphor and likeness in a design. In this way, too, the...

Will assemble where peonies gave their colour to the air

For a moment, as we read, the world becomes centred on these flowers growing in what sounds like a rubbish dump 'In a wasteland' in the first part of the poem, 'among great clods, cans, boxes' in the second. This is an urban poem set in the northern United States where the poet now lives. Far from being portrayed in a static position, as in some vase or still life painting every petal given in beautiful detail these flowers are not being admired for any decorative qualities they may have, but...

The bridge is wide The Forth is deep lambic trains are made for sleep

But speaking in regular metre would make us sound like daleks or metronomes. Even in instances of high regularity, as in the just-quoted couplet, the voice is only loosely attached to the beat. A breathing rhythm has its part to play as well. The heart is regular and beats involuntarily, but we can control our breathing. We can pause, slow down, speak rapidly, whilst still staying within the iambic range. In poetry the underlying sense of metre (like a heart-beat) is more pronounced than it is...

Travel

Memories of travel are often about excitement and anticipation that moment when you wake up and know that in a matter of hours you will be in a plane crossing the Alps or the coastal forests of Eastern Canada in just as long as it takes to eat your breakfast. But as well as thinking about how to tap into all that anticipation, it might be useful to reflect on what travel has meant to us in the past. The idea of the journey occupies a central place in our creative literature, as if 'journey' and...

Realism

The first character in fiction to experience 'belonging to oneself' was Robinson Crusoe. There are similarities between Hegland's story and Defoe's novel, one of the earliest examples of modern fiction, written near the beginning of the eighteenth century. As well as a new attention to self and surroundings, modern fiction writers aimed to position their story-worlds close to the common experience of living readers. This stylistic development is usually defined by the term realism. King also...

Memory

In Chapter 1, I made a distinction between memory and imagination to highlight how certain events, images, scenes, become intensified, recalled in vividness, remembered whilst others subside into the unconscious mass of fragments it seems we have no use for. But if only it were that simple. The mind is not a filing system from which we can draw out an item of memory as fresh as the moment it was placed there. The system will have continued to absorb the item, digesting it, modifying it, and...

Writing Coursebook

THE ROUTLEDGE CREATIVE WRITING COURSEBOOK This step-by-step, practical guide to the process of creative writing provides readers with a comprehensive course in its art and skill. With genre-based chapters, such as life writing, novels and short stories, poetry, fiction for children and screenwriting, it is an indispensable guide to writing successfully. The Routledge Creative Writing Coursebook shows new writers how to get started and suggests useful writing habits encourages experimentation...

Voice

Writing as art helps us to recognise the voices, images, worlds and stories we inhabit and which inhabit us in other words, our acquired culture. But it usually does this not through explanation or analysis, but by encouraging us to listen and see. In the following passage from her novel The Bluest Eye, the black American writer Toni Morrison paints a picture of weekends in a family household in Ohio. The child narrator remembers the impact of her mother's voice. She recreates her singing, her...

Art Of Writing Preface

Somewhere between a second edition and a sequel, the present book follows Writing In Action, with a focus exclusively on creative writing. It aims to offer fresh approaches and some new terms to match. Whilst writing this book I became aware of new ground to be discovered, and the constant need to rethink what happens when we read and write creatively. Creative writing as a taught discipline is on the move it is going places, and I hope I've provided some opportunity to think about interesting...

Acknowledgements

Paul Mills, 'Mile End Opera', from Dinosaur Point, 2000, Smith Doorstop Books. Reproduced by kind permission of the publisher http www.poetrybusiness.co.uk . 'Strayed Crab', from The Complete Poems 1927-1979, by Elizabeth Bishop. Copyright 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. 'Sandra Lee Scheuer', Copyright Gary Geddes. 'Active Trading', 1996. Reproduced by permission of Peterloo Poets. Fred D'Aguiar, 'Home', from British Subjects,...

S

Poetry anthologies often list poems under separate headings. For example, Staying Alive, edited by Neil Astley, includes 'Roads and Journeys', 'Growing Up'. Compile a list of poems under a heading of your choice, then write your own poems on this topic. If the heading were 'Home', for example, you might find the following instructions helpful Home could be a house, a city, a neighbourhood, a country or a continent. It could be home in the past or the present. Homes you have known. A...

Deception and Evasion

For some strange reason we often associate creative literature with truth, yet novels and plays are full of characters who fail to tell it, deliberately avoid it, prefer to tell what they wish was the case rather than what actually is. Plays by Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, like those by Chekhov and Ibsen, typify what we might call the literature of evasion. The truth, of course, finally gets spoken, but not until a voice for it can be found. In terms of structure their plays are about...

But shes to be there Let me jump out owagon and go back and drown me At Pumney or Ten Hatches Weir

In Hardy's 'One Ralph Blossom Soliloquizes' the story is reported in the Budmouth Borough minutes of 16_. One Ralph Blossom was asked to pay towards the upkeep of seven women 'who were mayds before they knew him'. But since, say the records, Ralph was 'dying of purple fever', no actual payments were requested. All this comes in an epigraph to the poem, which then begins with Ralph's own words just before his death. 'What will these seven women say to me ' Three show regret at what happened and...

Imagemaking

How do writers construct worlds where objects become hinged openings, doors, invitations to enter and speculate In a way I might already have answered this question. Images occur when a mind is closely attending to some object or event in its surroundings. To elaborate, the mind is in an unusual state of attention, so that a once familiar state or condition of things appears to be unfamiliar, surprising, joyful or hazardous. This view will not appeal to everybody. It assumes, it is argued, a...

Reading Images

An image can be something we feel invited to walk around, view from different angles like a sculpture. Something has been carved out so that each view of it is equal to any other. No single perspective has the last word. No matter how powerful images are, their reception may still be unclear, and that uncertainty can prove creative. In creative writing, the audience or reader needs to feel actively involved in the construction of meaning. In Margaret Atwood's story 'Death by Landscape' the...

Fingers decurved I trv not to envision it

I consider careers he can have with one-and-a- half hands. When the doctor has stuck the needles into his forearm and unloosed the current, there is a crackling on the monitor a scribble of activity on the screen, my throat thickens as I hear the life of the nerve, and the doctor says, A healthy nerve this nerve is dead. For a second I had pictured the muscle at the base of his thumb, flexor pollucis brevis, and the heel of his hand, I saw him in the album, holding his weak hand in his strong...

The sun with long legs wades into the sea

How extraordinary to make a scene out of such little detail, to make that detail stylised, formal, yet also very moving. But is the reader moved by the aesthetics or by the contents a storm, death, no evidence, the beach and beams of sunlight indifferent to death It becomes very difficult to know. Mazes, subsided herds, the sun with long legs metaphors, formal devices the very opposite of William Carlos Williams's treatment of the woman in the street removing a nail from her shoe see above, p....

The Story of the Self

The sensations of a mind and body, in finite time, moving through a physical universe if this is one definition of the self, it perhaps becomes more recognisable if we add desires, fears, and, in some cases, prayers for its everlasting salvation. These attributes link each of us to a culture, so that we learn to desire, fear and speak to each other only as we belong to groups of people sharing customs, values and beliefs. The self still remains a neurological mystery, however in so far as how...