Expressing Emotions and Finding The Words

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The school holidays are over.  Like most teachers, I return to teaching tomorrow after spending much of the break researching and planning for my classes.  I did manage some relaxation and fun, but also tackled clearing out in preparation for springtime painting and came across a box with newspaper clippings and some old stories and poems, which reminded me of why I began writing.

I was reminded too of some successes and that is no bad thing – it is too easy to let rejections or disappointment loom large and forget the joy when your words work and others appreciate them too.

I’ve always enjoyed telling stories about ordinary people, showing them triumph or cope in the midst of life’s challenges, giving hope or showing they are not alone in their suffering, grief, adventure, experience, relationship difficulties… ordinary people can live extraordinary lives and they deserve a voice. I love it when someone remembers my characters or stories, the words have resonated, a connection has been made.

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In the early days of Mordialloc Writers’ Group when I was a beginner writer, my husband John was diagnosed with asbestosis and later cancer. Through his work within the trade union movement and when I was employed there too, we had come in touch with many people with various types of cancer, but now it was personal. Ironically, it became more personal for me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer after John died.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of my writing was around the subject of cancer, people struggling with the disease, how people react when diagnosed, how they live with it, although I never set out to write solely on that subject and did write about other topics, especially in my writing for children.

However, my first published successes were on the subject of cancer. I tried  to make my words emotionally moving for readers so they understood or cared about people dealing with it directly or indirectly and the outlet for my work was the Anti-Cancer Council’s  Daffodil Day Literary Competition. 

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The competition had very specific rules and in the early days the word limit was 500 words, then 750 words, and today I think stories can be 1000 words or more.

Along with the newspaper cuttings and congratulatory letters I also found a bundle of stories I never sent in, but wrote with a theme or specific word count in mind. The following is one I wrote about Fred, a very dear friend of John’s. We shared his battle with inoperable lung cancer. I hope I do him justice.

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Twelve months! Is that what the Doc said? Maybe longer with treatment. This is not happening. Not today, with that vivid blue sky and the sea a turquoise carpet – hope it’s magic.

There’s that deformed bloody seagull screeching, scavenging balancing on a spindly leg, determined to stay in the game. I’m with you matey!

I’ll have the chemotherapy, radiotherapy, pills – whatever lengthens the odds. Perhaps return to sea on a coastal vessel. I’ve survived plenty of turbulence and near disasters – I’ll survive this hiccup ashore. Doctors can be wrong… I’ll get a second opinion.

When will I be returning to work? Can’t you read? What does it say on that doctor’s certificate? I have terminal cancer and twelve months to live. Today they gave me some hope… chemo seems to be working. I could be in remission. No, that doesn’t mean I’m cured! Who’s going to employ me sonny?

Mountains of red tape just to keep cash coming in. Big bucks out – for doctors, radiographers, chemists, physios, hospitals. I’ve worked hard, always paid my fair share of tax and now every snotty-nosed kid and snooty-nosed government official know more about my finances than I know meself! Trying to find out about Super’s a nightmare!

Why me? A couple of more years and I’d be on the pension, taking the dream cruise or grey nomad adventure!

The support group did help – glad I went. Never thought I’d be meditating or obsessing about nutrition. Fancy swallowing herbs in preference to a beer? Thought that lark was for hippies and cranks. If the blokes down the wharves knew! Well, I’ll drink as much foul-tasting goo as necessary if it keeps me alive.

Life is better when I’m calmer. When meditating I can feel Jean’s presence, helping me cope. I appreciate the blokes ringing and neighbours popping in. The sunlight danced on the waves this morning, the sand glittered like sprinkled fairy dust. Yeah, those bloody herbs, or the meditation must be working!

I’m doing all right. Lost the last bit of hair yesterday, but bald is fashionable. Look at Peter Garrett and all those young ones shaving their heads! Bought meself a surfboard to paddle on Patterson River every morning. Will rebuild the strength in my arms; keep the muscles toned. I’m not ready to shuffle off yet, got things I want to do.

Think I’ll take up diving, consider the sea from a different angle. Doc told me to keep looking forward.

What beaut staff at Peter Mac’s. Great to have access to all this equipment and care. But I’ll be happier when Greg comes home and he can drive me in and out for treatment. Don’t feel as confident driving anymore, get so bloody tired. Look at that poor bugger. At least I’m not that far gone. But he always has a smile and cheery word, probably happy pills. Doc said I can have some if depression hits.

Lucky Greg was with me when I had that bit of a funny turn. Some sort of fit. More bloody tests. CAT scans, ultrasounds – the works. Their best shot. Guess what will be, will be. Greg’s staying ashore to look after me, building a unit in the backyard. Turn up for the books, considering all the scrapes I got him out of when he was a kid! I won’t give up because I know everyone is praying for me.

A brain tumour caused the convulsion. Cancer’s spread. Must beat the odds old son… Just stormbound for a while.

Greg’s a bit quieter these days. S’pose it reminds him of when his mum died. Doesn’t seem like three years. I keep thinking of Jean too, thought she was standing by my bed. Guess I’ll see her soon enough.

Thank God for family. Big sister, Sal’s a trouper taking the load off Greg. Poor bugger doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going. He’s done well arranging with the hospital to borrow equipment. Might as well watch the telly in my own place and the airbed is heaven. Sal doesn’t mind Melbourne’s weather – something to moan about when she returns to Queensland.

‘He’s asleep. Sleeps most of the time now. Very peaceful. No pain at all. I won’t forget to tell him you rang. Yes, he knows how much he’s loved.’

Vale Fred Watson 2001

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Creative Conversations and Observations for a Poet and Writer on Public Transport

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On reflection, having to travel by public transport and perhaps do more walking than others need to, has been a gift for my writing. My notebook is filled with snippets of conversation, details noted, ideas, characters and plots, from daily observations as I travel from A to B by foot, bus or train.

Strange as it may seem in this modern world, I don’t drive and have never held a driving licence.

Why?

It’s a long story, which involves a deeply traumatic accident when I was a teenager, and one I won’t revisit today.

However, I make any situation work for me! I try to enthuse my students to spend more time on public transport (it is better for the planet after all) and to always be alert and have their pen and notebook at the ready.

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Monday Morning
Mairi Neil

Often I wake to early dawn
Pastel colours suffused on lawn
Dewy drops dripping from leaves
Ready to fall if gentle sea breeze…

Daylight comes with steady gait
I breakfast quickly, not to be late
The working day waits for no one
And shining sun now promises fun.

Buds are blooming insects thrum
The birds from the Wetlands come
Magpies chortle, blackbirds trill
Juicy worms now a morning thrill.

Trains trundle past, destination known
A glance at the clock, time has flown
Aurora locked outside with a bone
Handbag checked for keys and phone.

The walk to work an easy pace
Night shadows gone without a trace
Neighbours’ gardens perfume the air
Examples of love, and diligent care.

Cars jostle for parking, traffic grows
Some drivers’ rage leads to blows
Modern living a frenetic dance
But I work within strolling distance

Often I wake to the early dawn
As pastel colours suffuse on lawn
Night shadows leaving without a trace
I whisper blessings for the Creator’s Grace …

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Monday Afternoon
Mairi Neil

The bus arrives to a restless queue
Driver grumpy, wishing time flew
Passengers board like a mutinous crew
No smiles, or greetings, courtesies few.

Timetables set and must be obeyed
When punctual, the memories fade
Lateness, delays, cancellations weighed
Invoking criticism, complaints, tirades!

What do passengers care of roadworks?
Better to assume all drivers are jerks
Perhaps skiving off, looking for perks
Responsibility of time, theirs to shirk.

Traffic jams, stress, interrupted flow
Vehicles broken down, or going slow
Bicycles hesitant of where to go
Negotiating routes even hard for a pro.

Who’d be a bus driver, I often ask
Their daily challenge an unenviable task
The bus arrives to a restless queue
The long-suffering driver wishing time flew…

One of the poet’s I admire is Roger McGough – he writes about a world I recognise and in a recent lesson, we discussed his poem Conversations on a Train and how we could use it as inspiration.

QUESTIONS
Where is conversation taking place?
Why are the women travelling?
What do the people do for a living?
Are they experienced travellers?
What are the Illuminations?
Any more information to be gleaned?
How does the poet use language and dialogue to tell the story?

Conversation on a Train
Roger McGough

I’m Shirley, she’s Mary.
We’re from Swansea
(if there was a horse there
it’d be a one-horse town
but there isn’t even that).
We’re going to Blackpool
Just the week. A bit late I know
But then there’s the Illuminations
Isn’t there? No, never been before.
Paris last year. Didn’t like it.
Too expensive and nothing there really.

Dirty old train isn’t it?
And not even a running buffet.
Packet of crisps would do
Change at Crewe
Probably have to wait hours
For the connection, and these cases
Are bloody heavy.
And those porters only want tipping.
Reminds you of Paris that does
Tip tip tip all the time.
Think you’re made of money over there.

Toy factory, and Mary works in a shop.
Grocers. Oh it’s not bad
Mind you the money’s terrible.
Where are you from now?
Oh aye, dya know the Beatles then?
Liar!
And what do you do for a living? You don’t say.
Diya hear than Mary?
Well I hope you don’t go home
And write a bloody poem about us.

In class, we worked with a partner and transposed the poem into a short piece of dialogue so we could mark the voices speaking and fill the gaps in conversation.

What differences are there between your dialogue and the poem? What’s more effective? Notice how you mentally supply the other half of the conversation because of cultural background and life experience.

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We then tried to write our own poems using McGough’s as a wonderful example.

A Trip to Tassy
Mairi Neil

I’m Mary, she’s Jane
We’re from Mordialloc
Our bit of paradise
Is Mordy –
Sea, sand and serenity.

We’re going to Launceston
Just the weekend. A bit short, I know.
But you need a break, don’t you?
Yes, work’s so bloody relentless
We’re cleaners. That’s right,
In business together.

Bumpy old ride isn’t it?
Gov’ment should fix the roads.
Oh, we’ve heard that, haven’t we Mum?
Road kill. Shocking statistics.
Those bumps were pot holes.
I bloody hope so!

We clean all sorts: houses, factories,
Shops. Too right there’s some sights
And smells. Ha! Ha! That’s funny!
Jane here would love that.
What Mum? A switch on yer nose.
Yeah, people can be filthy.

Everywhere. We went to England
Last year. Buckingham Palace.
Yeah, it was clean
But ya should have seen
The dog poo in the streets.
Like I said, people are filthy.

There can be perks -mostly jerks.
Jane!
Jaded Jane? You could say that.
It’s not a sought after job
For anyone. Of course, I finished
School. The economy’s crap.
What’s your line of work?
Gov’ment huh? Cushy job.
Wow, that was some bump.
Why don’t you fix the bloody roads!

Off The Rails
Off The Rails

Frankston to Flinders Street
Mairi Neil

Jason and Trev
Yeah, just finished TAFE
Our holiday gear
Is that why you thought
We were Tradies?
Jason’s tools need
A harder case than that
Like he is – Ha! Ha!
Have a guess. No, not sparkies.
Do I look like a painter?
Jas here’s a carpenter, I’m a baker.
And you’re a secretary.
Oooh! sensitive.
Nothing wrong with being a secretary
They record minutes and write too.

Trev’s sister’s a secretary
For the CEO of Metro
Pity she wasn’t the CEO
This train line needs a makeover.
You could write about that in your paper
We’re getting off at Southern Cross
Heading for the Ghan
And the desert.
You been there Pam?
Plenty of stories for you.
She’s going to write about us Trev.
Make us celebrities – eh Pam?
Front page news
Tradies Take Over Train
Tradies Testing Transport’s Timetables

Yeah, we were the jokers at TAFE
And school Jas – remember that
Trip to Springvale?
Very droll Pam – not the cemetery
But just as dead heh, Jas?
Deadly Trev – we missed the bus
Home remember? Aw getting off
So soon! Don’t you want to know
What we did? All right be like that.
Go on Trev, she like you…
Fancy coming with us Pam?
To record our story, of course!
Smile Trev I think that blonde’s
Heading this way…

Another poem by Roger McGough I love is –

Waving at Trains
Roger McGough

Do people who wave at trains
Wave at the driver, or at the train itself?
Or, do people who wave at trains
Wave at the passengers? Those hurtling strangers,
The unidentifiable flying faces?
They must think we like being waved at.
Children do perhaps, and alone
In a compartment, the occasional passenger
Who is himself a secret waver at trains.
But most of us are unimpressed.
Some even think they’re daft.
Stuck out there in a field, grinning.
But our ignoring them, our blank faces,
Even our pulled tongues and up you signs
Come three miles further down the line.
Out of harm’s way by then
They continue their walk.
Refreshed and made pure, by the mistaken belief
That their love has been returned,
Because they have not seen it rejected.
It’s like God in a way. Another day
Another universe. Always off somewhere.
And left behind, the faithful few,
Stuck out there. Not a care in the world.

Trains play a big part in my life and it is no surprise they inspire me to write.

Currently, I live opposite the Frankston railway line and 500 steps from Mordialloc Railway Station, and have done for 31 years.

Before that, I grew up in Croydon with the Lilydale line two paddocks away from our back fence. Before that, I lived in Scotland and watched my father drive trains, thrilled when he was on the Weymss Bay route and we’d wave a sheet from the back landing of our Braeside home. He’d toot the horn to let us know he’d seen us. (My Grandfather, also a locomotive engine driver in the age of steam so Dad was carrying on a family tradition.)

Dad drove steam trains, also diesels and was at 23 years of age the youngest diesel instructor for British Rail. When we arrived in Australia in 1962 with good references and proof of his 25 year career with British Rail, I can’t even imagine his devastation at being rejected by Victorian Railways, deemed too old at 40 to be a driver, and offered a job as a cleaner. ( A common immigrant story)

His active connection with working with trains forever severed – except at the dinner table where we feasted on stories of Papa and Dad’s exploits.

Trains are one of the most efficient and sustainable forms of public transport. For years I travelled to the city for work: red rattlers caught at Croydon Station at 7.30am and the infamous 5 o’clock flyer home from Flinders Street.

When I lived in Prahran for 5 years, I trammed to North Melbourne – and using the trams gave me my first paid published short story!

A move to Mordialloc in 1984 entailed travelling in and out of the city on Blue Harris trains, Silver Comengs, and now Metro’s Siemen trains. If given a choice, I opt for train travel over car, bus or plane! And I always have my writer’s notebook at hand.

3.05pm Flinders Street to Frankston
Mairi Neil

He shovels a healthy salad
into bearded mouth
his bamboo fork
environmentally friendly ––
but not the plastic container…

She swigs Kamboucha
for inner health
what about Mother Earth’s
digestive tract? Blocked
by the plastic bottle and cap.

Fast food aromas embedded
in train carriage upholstery
waft in the air, cling to clothes
junk food litter clutters floor
peeks from discarded plastic bags…

Excess packaging the norm
as the world chokes and
even those who profess care
sucked in and swallowed
by consumerism

Landfill dumps grow
garbage
litter
refuse
muck
There is no ‘away’ in throw!

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What’s your favourite form of transport? What transport inspires your writing? Have you written a poem based on overheard conversations or observations? Please give me a link to share.

Thank you

Icebreakers, Introductions, Innovation, and Sharing the ‘Inner’ You…

There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.

Ernest Hemingway

My teaching year began this week and although I have many returning students there are also new enrolments. The first lesson always includes writing exercises to help us get to know one another, but coming up with innovative icebreakers isn’t easy.  I think I’ve exhausted all the usual suspects and planning that first lesson takes a great deal of time.

How do you make the information shared ‘new’ for the same people who have been meeting and writing together for over a decade? How do you make someone coming into that established group feel excited about joining and wanting to belong? The variety of ages, life experience, abilities and expectations in adult classes  makes them interesting and enjoyable, but also a challenge.

A good ice breaker helps create a memorable first impression and often encourages lasting friendships – that enjoyable feeling where you say, ‘we just clicked!’

As a teacher I listen attentively to everyone’s responses and encourage the class to do the same – being a good listener very important, but especially so for writers. Often we interview each other and then introduce our interviewee to the class before writing either a story based on some piece of information gleaned, or a journalistic profile or mini biography.

However, when the same people return each year I have to come up with targeted interview questions or word games. This year we went around the room several times describing ourselves with adjectives that began with the same letter as our name (alliteration), but added why we chose the word.

Meticulous Mairi – I love paying attention to detail when I write.
Moneyless Mairi – The need to have a regular income to pay bills keeps me grounded, but also eats into writing time.
Mysterious Mairi – An intriguing song from my youth often plays in my head, Peter Sarstedt’s “Where do you go to My Lovely…” I never want to be described as ‘an open book.’

The ice was certainly broken by the first round as people helped each other to come up with adjectives and explanations of why they chose the word – those with names beginning with ‘I’ having to stretch the mind muscles with inimitable, illogical, immaculate, inventive, innovative, irrepressible, ingenious and informal… One student’s name began with ‘J‘ and we understood why jolly and jocular were easy to say, but jam-lover revealed an interesting snippet we hadn’t heard before!

Not everyone can think ‘off the top of their head’ and although I always leave a dictionary and thesaurus in the centre of the table it was heartening to see how everyone joined in to help each other out when someone got stuck. It’s not as easy as it sounds, to come up with words beginning with the same letter or sound as your name – especially to match descriptions you want to be accurate!

A feature of my classes is always laughter – and my students have never disappointed – a little bit of humour whether self deprecating, satire or full on comedy should be a component of everyone’s day.

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The assigned homework will add to our knowledge of each other if the writers choose my suggestion of modelling a profile on the alphabet. Like list poetry I have discussed in a previous post, using the alphabet as a jumping off point can be helpful to a writer:

Write the alphabet down the page – Underneath the letter or off to the side, write:
A is for __________.
For example, A is for Australia (if you were born in Australia, or perhaps Apple if that’s your favourite fruit). Write a couple of sentences of explanation, description…fantasy, memoir… wherever your thoughts take you.

Next week you will share this ABC profile of yourself and also any story ideas it may have given you. This is a FUN exercise to flex your writing muscles and imagination.
Perhaps the ABC profile might be about a character in a story you are working on, or some other person you want to write about. The more bizarre or unusual the words you choose, the more interesting and original the writing and the more you stretch your imagination! RELAX and keep a good dictionary handy.

Last year among the targeted questions the class pondered and answered we thought about our names. Your name is an integral part of who you are, how you perceive yourself (many people change their names). Names often generate a discussion when you first meet someone – whether it is about culture, origin, similarity to your own, never been heard before, unusual spelling…

Biblical-Names

From a writer’s perspective choosing a character’s name is an important part of the writing process. At the end of the first lesson last year we certainly knew each other better and had some interesting ideas for stories and characters.

What’s in a name?
Mairi Neil

To break the ice in writing class
Much to some students’ dismay
We asked each other questions
In a ‘getting to know you’ kind of way.

At first we pondered each other’s names
Their origin – had family tradition won?
We discovered Barbara may be a saint
And Victoria’s Tori is much more fun.

Amelia loves her name, as does Heather,
Who hates nicknames or shortened versions
While Emily feels loved when she hears Em,
And Jan became Janette if family ructions.

A lipstick released and called Michelle
Ensured Jane’s mother chose simply Jane
Michael never wants to hear Mike and
Mairi wishes her spelling more plain.

What’s in a name, I hear you say
What’s the creative writing motivation?
Well, as any writer will tell you
All knowledge is ripe for exploitation!

Who hasn’t heard of Oliver Twist,
Jane Eyre, Miss Faversham or Lorna Doon
of Harry Potter, Hercules Poirot?
And Mr d’Arcy still makes folk swoon!

Most storytellers invent characters
And characters usually need a name
Think carefully as you bring yours to life
Because they may be on the road to fame!

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Ice breakers help the class explore their thoughts on a common issue and for a group of writers they can be a perfect segue into a topic or technique important to the craft of writing. When I reflect on the class responses I may see a snapshot into their current thinking or knowledge of writing, as well as recognising changes in the lives and health of those who have been attending for a long period of time. The lessons from that first lesson shape the term as we continue on that wonderful road paved with words, ideas and more words!

A writer’s problem does not change. It is always how to write truly and having found out what is true to project it in such a way that it becomes part of the experience of the person who reads it.

Ernest Hemingway

Flexible Writing Forms, Write a Villanelle and Have More Poetry Fun

‘Whatever is flexible and flowing will tend to grow, whatever is rigid and blocked will wither and die.’

Lao Tzu, from the Tao Te Ching.

Farewell to 2014 and welcome to 2015. Like many people, particularly in my age group, I wonder where the year has gone and if it’s true that it disappears more quickly the older you are!

If I still lived in Scotland I’d celebrate Hogmanay in the traditional manner and in years gone by I’ve kept up several of the cultural traditions, but confess to having a quiet evening at home on New Year’s Eve, allowing my partying dark-haired daughter to bring in the lump of coal I left at the front door.

Actually, it is a briquette (a lump of compressed coal) from the family home at Croydon. Mum gave it to me to use specifically for the ‘first foot’ over the door on Hogmanay, when I moved into my own home in Mordialloc over 30 years ago.

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This time of year lends itself to reflection as well as remembering cultural quirks. Reflection is an important part of growth and change, especially for someone like me who teaches as well as writes.

  • What lessons worked, what ones didn’t inspire?
  • What writing resonated with others, when did the words fail?
  • What new methods can I try to inspire other writers?
  • What new techniques and tools will I introduce in this amazing digital age?
  • How will I grow and change as a writer forever seeking to improve and connect?

It’s no secret to those that know me that I’m passionate about writing and reading – because of course, they go hand in hand. I love sharing knowledge and encouraging others to be equally as passionate about the craft of writing and to expand their reading lists and writing repertoire. As I encourage others to move out of their writing comfort zone, so must I.

On New Year’s Eve I read a book that had me laughing aloud (good for the health) and admiring the pithy, witty, insightful and succinct use of the English language as well as the skilful political observations of many fellow Australians. Pardon me for mentioning… Unpublished Letters to The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald is a collection of letters commenting on the Aussie political scene late 2011- early 2013 that never made it to print (until now). It is unashamedly topical, but even if you missed some of the events (not sure how) the cleverness of the writers will impress you and the laid-back trademark Aussie humour abounds. After reading this book you’ll look at some of the names and wish they were regular published commentators of life here in Oz! (Although with our current PM, I’m guessing the 2014 edition will be unprintable!)

One letter writer quoted on the back cover:

If I get good service in a restaurant I usually tip 10 per cent of the bill. If the service is poor, the tip I leave to the waiter is: ‘Don’t overwater your bromeliads in winter.’        John Byrne, Randwick

My tip is don’t hold a cup of hot tea or coffee in your hand while reading this book especially in the chapter: Crimes Against the English Language. Yes, as well as being amusing, the book can be used as a learning tool – what better way to learn editing skills and original clever angles than to try and encapsulate what you want to say in the strict word limit of “Letters to the Editor”.

I’ve had several letters published in the past, but like many others, read my newspapers online now and I haven’t sent a letter for some time. However, this book has reignited interest and presented another writing challenge for 2015. When reading their statistics, they receive more than 2000 letters by email a week, plus faxes and handwritten missives, therefore to be published your letter needs to have that something extra – and isn’t that what we’d like for all our writing? I’m sure I can organise a lesson for my students to perfect letter writing and thinking positively, some will be published!

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Last year I introduced different poetic forms to my classes. I mentioned the pantoum in a previous post. After showing some examples, I challenged the class to choose a form and write a poem to suit. The results were magnificent, poignant, touching, funny – the whole gamut of emotions encapsulating life experiences.

Dreams Afloat – a pantoum

Ships on the horizon with cargo varied
Stirring memories of long ago
Migrants dreaming of homes adopted
And of lives they must let go.

Stirring memories of long ago
Ships called into ports enchanted
The passengers must let  history go
Seek new friends and spirits kindred

Ships called into ports enchanted
Exotic foods like mango and sago
Tempted passengers and spirits kindred
Amazing changes they’d undergo

Exotic foods like mango and sago
Migrants introduction to homes adopted
Aware of new seeds they must sow
From ships arriving with cargo varied.

Mairi Neil 2014

According to American poet, Conrad Geller, ‘One traditional form of poetry that can be fun to write, is technically easy compared to the most challenging forms, and often surprises the poet with its twists and discoveries…’ He refers to the villanelle and suggests the name derives from the Italian villa, or country house.

The Poetry Foundation say that it is, ‘A French verse form consisting of five three-line stanzas and a final quatrain, with the first and third lines of the first stanza repeating alternately in the following stanzas. These two refrain lines form the final couplet in the quatrain.’

Whatever its origins, a well-known example of a villanelle is Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas. This powerful poem can be read and heard here.

My offering much simpler, but even so, I suggest a good rhyming dictionary will come in handy and should be added to your toolbox along with a normal dictionary and thesaurus. There is a free Rhyming Dictionary online here worth bookmarking if you don’t want to go to the expense of purchasing hard copy.

As Time Goes By – a villanelle

Age brings reflection on each passing year
Sometimes nostalgia like a fever burns,
Loves and lives lost, births many a tear.

Childhood remembered. Time to conquer fear
Learning that paths have many turns
Age brings reflection on each passing year.

Like an uprooted tree, farewell those dear,
The roots left behind for memory churn
Loves and lives abandoned, births many a tear.

Building a new life; opportunities near
Success or failure? You must discern
Change brings reflection on each passing year.

Time marches on, the well-worn maxim clear,
No immunity from grief, mistakes to unlearn
Loves and lives lost, births many a tear.

And when the end of the road draws near
Count blessings. Hope your life did no harm
Age brings reflection on each passing year,
Loves and lives lost, spills many a tear.

Mairi Neil 2014.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and productive 2015 where the words will continue to flow and grow!