Cheltenham Poetry Society runs a workshop on the first Tuesday of every month at Parmoor House, Lypiatt Terrace, Cheltenham, from 7pm to 10pm. There is a different leader each month to ensure variety of approach - and share the workload!
The first half of the evening is a writing exercise, using the particular prompt or trigger the leader for that evening has chosen. Sometimes it is word-based, sometimes a leader will choose to explore various poetic forms or themes, sometimes we will look at examples of other people's work to inspire us. We aim for an "educational" element or a new approach to creativity rather than just suggesting topics on which to write ... although that might be part of the exercise. After 30-40 minutes of writing, we will read round what we have written for constructive comments from others. However, there is no obligation to share these early drafts. It is simply an opportunity to acquire and give some initial feedback to help us in the editing process.
After a refreshment break and sharing of any poetry-related news, we read poems we have previously written - again for constructive comments and feedback to help us with our editing. As before, there is never any obligation to share a poem on any given evening, or to give feedback on any particular poem. The main objective is to be helpful - it's always useful to know what other people are taking from one's writing.
We always welcome newcomers to these workshops and ask people to bring writing materials and half a dozen copies of the one or two of their poems which they would like to share with the group.
Workshops are great value at £4 per session. This is reduced to £2 if individuals subscribe (£8). This represents a £16 saving over the whole year if a subscriber attends each of the 12 workshops.
The last workshop (2 April) was led by Avril Staple who brought her artistic flair to inspire us, inviting us to make simple pastel sketches focusing on light and shade in fabric, dried rose leaves and fruit skin, and metal objects (eg tap, bracket). Some of us confessed that we were not great visual artists, but everyone had a go. We then "framed" the results ... and wrote about what we had thought about as we had sketched, using the images that came into our minds as we looked at the objects we were sketching. Concentrating on light and shade had freed our minds to wander, allowing for a "flow" of creativity to spark our imaginations. Some exciting and refreshingly "different" first drafts resulted. (Personally, I was surprised to have written my first ever poem (just 4 lines) in Welsh! I also wrote a poem in English about breaking through into another dimension. I doubt whether these would have resulted from a more traditional word-based workshop!
So, thank you, Avril for bringing a fresh approach - and for encourage us all to think about using other forms of artistic expression to re-ignite our poetry. After the exercise, we talked more generally about how other artforms, eg music, inspired some of us in writing poetry. We might explore this at some point in the future.