"Bringing moment by moment awareness and kindness to our writing is good for us - and the poems we read and write." Linda France & Larry Butler (Writing Recoveries Conference March 2018)
I love the idea of being kind to our writing, as if we could stroke the words with our pen, wrap them up in the sofa blanket and make them a cup of tea. When I think of being kind to the poems we read I can feel myself softening and opening inside as if I've created a larger space in which to receive the poem. And maybe that will mean that I will receive a larger dose of poetic medicine and delight from it's reading.
Slowing down whilst writing can sometimes help us step in the vaster space of creating a piece of work and bring surprising results. There are endless strategies and techniques in the world of therapeutic creative writing, from Gillie Bolton's classic 6 minute free write where you go speeding with your pen to the end and Natalie Goldberg's advice to 'go for the jugular' and spill it out on the page.
Both of these are techniques I use myself and with others and work brilliantly to lubricate the imagination or enable a cathartic splurt that can then be shaped, left as it is or be the basis for a larger write. In a world of do do do, it can sometimes feel like I need to write write write. Finish that novel asap. Read as many books as I can as quickly as I can. I never got speed-reading as a phenomenally slow reader. But I can be a tad nifty with a pen and racing imagination.
Linda France suggests that by slowing down our writing and being mindful we can get more from our writing and from the experience of writing. A way of being kind to reading and writing a poem is by breaking a longer poem down in to fragments and to respond to each fragment with our own writing. We worked with Adrienne Rich's "Diving in to the Wreck" - slowly reading and slowly responding to fragments with our own words and I was mightily surprised by what emerged...
Whenever I slow down enough to
sip liquid lightening,
exploding turmeric paradise bouncing my tongue,
I sink in to brown flowered draylon,
throwing shimmering dust motes in to the air,
an incandescent personal Holi.
I feel like I am drinking the sun
I forget about doing the dishes,
people who grate on my neurones,
the ever incoming emails, credit card bills
and to-do lists.
Instead I dance till late to the floristry of words
dripping off wet red lips,
and to the idling tongues of Ider pulsing
my cells one by one.
Beneath my eyelids,
aqua green walls and
break dancing flames become embossed.
I stretch my arms to find my wingspan has grown
and the brown draylon flowers can fly.
I open my mouth and sing in sea-eaglish and
bursting rain clouds.
With my wingtips I trace luminous
words in to the night air,
my quill full of shooting stars.
And as I drift in to slow slumber
I pray I wake here again and again.
© Dal Kular
As ever, it's a work in process and I've been constantly fiddling with the shape and order of words. Crafting it slowly yet intuitively felt like a meditation. Emerging from the writing process felt as if my mind had just been on a 90 degree cotton wash, coming out all squeaky clean and refreshed. When I read the poem back to myself and to another I was surprised by what I'd written, almost as if someone else had written those words, yet the voice was unmistakably mine. I had an overwhelming sense of delight reading it back, like I'd created my own poetic medicine.
Maybe I'll take it, very slowly, one dose a day for three weeks and see where it takes me.
Linda France teaches on the MA Creative Writing at Newcastle University and a published poet.