Workshop, 18th December 2018

Not every poem needs to be an epic – for every Hiawatha, there must be a thousand haikus.  Sonnets seem to lie on the vague border between what feels like a quickie verse and the start of a ballad.  But as any seasoned poet will attest when it comes to their composition, keeping it short dies not always mean keeping it quick.  There is a real art to being pithy, of turning a perfect couplet that says it all, without the luxury of tangents or flourish.

Here in the Archive we always appreciate brevity, especially when having to catalogue the feet of every line.  Nothing sinks the heart more that turning the page of a slim volume to find a pageful of long, rambling line after line to be analysed into iambs, dactyls and spondees.  But ah, the bliss of turning the leaf to find nothing more than a Limerick and acres of crisp white space…

This being the final workshop of the year, it was suggested that readers might want to bring along two or three quickies that ordinarily would feel a little brief.  Attendees of course are welcome to keep things as short as they like, but some might feel that a poem all over in ten seconds is likely to be critiqued by the others just as speedily and hardly getting their money’s-worth.  So this week, a few readers made up for length through multiplicity.  Pat Francis gave us a concise assortment of observations on the workings of the Workshop, Martin Choules brought multiple scraps of paper sporting various mental droppings, Alan Chambers then riddled us ree, Anne Furneaux found her lovebirds had clashing schedules, while Nick Barth risked a few haikus and had an enjoyable whinge on an escalator, and William Morton caught his breath to sing to the season of jingling tills.

Not everyone was in such a hurry though, and Niall Cassidy was found perusing an airport bookshop in a fruitless search for verse, while John Hurley recalled his first intense teenage crush.  Owen Gallagher was in allegorical mood with his cautionary tale of Democracy, Christine Shirley remembered her late brother by a waterfall in a touching piece, and Peter Francis rode the grim, stampeding train to the promised land.

Sir John was always a lover of the short and sweet approach, much against the verbose spirit of his times – Johnny Keats was incapable of ode-ing for fewer than fifty lines, and Georgie Byron was constantly adding to his Don Juan which he always insisted on reading from the very beginning, while Sammy Coleridge seemingly had his Ancient Mariner tell of his entire voyage, wave by wave .  Indeed, so strained did Sir John become with every passing can to, that he went so far as to make discreet enquiries so that he might personally thank the Person from Porlock.

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