February Musings by Sue Wallace-Shaddad
At the very end of last month, I attended a workshop on poem titles run by Sue Burge. This gave me a lot of food for thought. I am sure many of us wrestle with that elusive perfect title. I tend to write very simple one-word or two-word titles. My first thoughts were that short titles suited my style of writing which tends to be compact. However, I have re-evaluated that in the light of the workshop. I realise that I need to consider the effect of the title more deeply, both in terms of helping the poem to flourish and attracting a reader. We were given useful suggestions as to how we might generate titles, including using magnetic poetry tiles, available from some bookshops. At the end of the workshop, we each had to make suggestions on how we would re-title a poem brought by another participant. That certainly generated some ideas for the poem I shared. It is something one could easily do in any workshopping group.
One of my ongoing deliberations has also been to find the right title for one of my new pamphlet manuscripts. I got some helpful suggestions from Fiona Benson at the Charles Causley Trust’s Winter Warmer Poetry Retreat. Fiona and Katrina Naomi were inspiring tutors on the retreat, which I greatly enjoyed. Both also did a short reading of their poems for us. We had excellent sessions, good food and accommodation, all set in lovely countryside. It was a pleasure to meet the other poets in the group. That weekend away has got me thinking about what stimulates my creativity. We had great fun making collages of words. Here are some photos of the mini-book I produced. In fact, I did not finish my booklet on the day and took some bits of cut-out text home with me to finish this off. The exercise played into my love of art as well as words. It is a lovely reminder of the weekend away.
As well as sessions as a group, we had one to one time with our tutors and that was a great opportunity to stand back slightly and consider where I had got to in my poetry life and where I want to go next. One bit of advice was not to be in too much of a hurry – and I must admit sometimes I can be quite driven! Katrina gave all the group her tips on ensuring wellbeing as a poet, including keeping a ‘smile file’ which is a lovely idea – a place to keep good mentions of your work that you can peruse when you have a bad day! I have come away with a lot of freewriting (not my usual style) which I will now comb to develop, I hope, some good poems. Follow-up is something I need to be more pro-active about. Often, I will work on poems drafted in workshops but I should also spend time assimilating and putting into practice the learning points and advice.
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