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...

And Ann cries O the times were fain So wherefore should you burn down there There is a deed under the sun my Love And

Jean 'Binta' Breeze's 'Testament' shows a black woman (the speaker of the poem) who has worked all her life in bad conditions in London bringing up her family, looking after her husband who works on the trains. Now her daughter is growing up, perhaps a little bit ashamed of her parents the father who smells of train oil, the mother who speaks Creole (the language of the poem). The daughter has a high school education and her own set of friends, but is losing her connection with the family and...

Between the campus and a green twostorey house

Where the room was always tidy, the bed made, the books in confraternity on the shelves. She did not throw stones, major in philosophy or set fire to buildings, though acquaintances say she hated war had heard of Cambodia. In truth she wore a modicum of make-up, a brassiere, And could, no doubt, more easily have married a guardsman Than cursed or put a flower in his rifle barrel. While the armouries burned she studied, Bent low over notes, speech therapy books, pages Open at sections on...

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 Poetry

William Carlos Williams described a poem as 'a machine made of words', and in the first part of this chapter I want to look closely at some of these machines of words to discover how they are put together, how they perform as they do and why they are able to attract the attention of readers. As writers we need to learn how poems can be made by looking at certain examples of finished poems, finding out what kind of pleasure they aim to provide and how our imagination is being engaged. One...

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....

Defamiliarisation

Writers sharpen our sense of the world by making us hear and see with intensified clarity at times when otherwise we might just take things for granted. The Golden Gate Bridge probably doesn't need de-familiarising, while other, more common, experiences, will. The poet Peter Sansom, for example, instead of saying 'drove off at speed', writes of a 'floored accelerator waking the whole street'. Rather than 'looking a mess' D.B.C.Pierre writes 'Ella's just skinny, with some freckles, and this big...

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...

In the centre of everything with still pools of shadows and a fire throwing flowers

This poem is constructed from oppositions the simple structure is stocked by brief details that are listed as opposites. One set of opposites doesn't replace the other they coexist. But of course one has to come first, so that we do not experience this coexistence until the end. We are left with it something was held in reserve. In their small space, the contrast injects vitality cold to heat, unpleasant to pleasant. Imagine the sets placed in reverse order, beginning with

Lost children in the bush

A cry from the mill, a footstep Nothing happens. . Sometimes a woman, sweeping her front step, or a plain young wife at a tankstand fetching water in a metal bucket will turn round and gaze at the mountains in wonderment, looking for a city. . As night comes down, the houses watch each other A light going out in a window has a meaning. . Men sit after tea by the stove while their wives talk, rolling a dead match between their fingers, thinking of the future. Murray shows us lives stalled at the...

Make use

Carver's poem does something more than give us good advice. It allows us a glimpse of the poet's surroundings, and shows us how these surroundings influence his writing. He makes us believe the conditions under which he is writing have entered the content of the poem, have become in all their randomness its subject. He causes us to imagine that while he is writing there actually is someone in the kitchen lurching around drunk, that it's raining outside, that he is smoking a cigarette. Can it be...

Orality and Literacy

This sections title above repeats that of Walter Ong's book about the differences between words as sounds (orality), and written words. As Ong explains, 'Writing was a very late development in human history. Homo Sapiens had been on earth perhaps some 50,000 years' (Ong, 1995 83). The visual field of the written word (writing has to be seen, spatially mapped) differs fundamentally from sound sensations. We can only read print as individuals, while we hear...

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...

Participation Enactment

Storytelling achieves the clarification of the great importance of something by creating a sense of moments as momentous, for those involved, for its audiences and readers. In live performance the storytellers art succeeds by action and gesture, moulding the voice, body and features into a state of empathy with the people and events, so that the moment of telling allows the story to come fully into existence, thus allowing the listener to participate. This quality I call enactment. The...

Revision and Editing

Although you may have been using a workbook, you also need to work on pieces of writing that will be read by other people. It's vital to get feedback on your work. Whether you revise and edit your writing as a result is your decision. Even the most negative feedback can sometimes be useful but, practically speaking, your opinion ultimately matters the most. You are in charge. As you prepare your work for a reader you will need to think about presentation word processing, line spacing, sentence...

Six stops away from the Victoria line the hostel In Copenhagen Street Chris on the night shift Miracle worker

As well as the basic narrative of what happened, who said what to whom, where and when, this poem is variously overshadowed by other events. What happened echoes what happened once, what was said or not said before. The poet has chosen a moment which shapes time afterwards things will not be as they were. Other events happening in the present and simultaneously the party across the street, the night shift cast their shade and light on the situation, but it may be that the final stanza misses...

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...

World

Whenever writers create credible worlds, each of these imagined spaces holds the attention of readers and audiences by making us share, care about and appreciate the actions and events that happen within its borders. Such borders might be close to the real world, adjacent to it, or far away from it. The distance is less relevant than the convincing representation of this space as authentic, consistent, believable, so that we feel our interest will be rewarded. Cinema audiences watching films...

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...

Summary

Can we identify the special qualities that make a piece of writing creative writing In this chapter I have tried to answer this question, but in ways that will open doors to writing as practice. Most of us will be readers and listeners before we become writers, but reading and listening are for writers active and ongoing. We need to become experts in listening to voices, in sensing what it takes to make a story, in discovering images that stay with us and somehow compel our attention, in...

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...