A little later than intended

Peter Lanyon: Soaring Flight 1961

Hello blog-readers and fellow bloggers. I have returned after a self imposed silence. Not that nuthin’ ain’t happenin’ at our fortnightly creative writing sessions but I have been preoccupied with my own concerns for the past few months and should be minding them as I write but conscience is at play and so I put by my studies to do this report, which may be brief(ish).

Sessions have been somewhat haphazard but remarkably consistent in this. We more often than not meet in the main hall rather than going off to the music room. This has the benefit of the group being seen at work and attracting casual observers, some of whom can be enticed to join in. It also enables (and I’m a fan of enabling) writers to eat and drink during the session, chat to friends and go off and play table tennis if the muse needs some R&R. I find it all hugely distracting (but as you may recall I am easily distracted) and although I try writing I’ve yet to get much further than biting the end of my pen, but I will persevere. If JK Rowling can write a multimillion selling book in a cafe I should be able to write a few lines of poetry on a Doorway Thursday afternoon.

I have been productive by my solitary self. The Open University module I’m doing presently is the creative writing strand. It has covered fiction, poetry and life-writing and presently I’m working on preparing a piece of work for publication and researching my options (very few, I fear). I’m still not sure whether to do fiction or poetry. At the same time I’m working on my final submission that is due in at the end of May (first draft to be finished by the end of April). This piece is worth fifty per cent of the overall marks for the course, and so the mind is focused.

For the life-writing (biography, autobiography and travel-writing) I planned poems about the life of the artist Peter Lanyon (1918-1964); one of the great painters of the 20th century (to my mind). He was born in St Ives and was part of the post-war St Ives School, along with Ben Nicolson, Barbara Hepworth, Terry Frost and others. But I can be a slow worker in respect of poetry and I couldn’t get them finished to my satisfaction. I also discovered that the poet, W.S. Graham (1918-1986), who was a friend of Lanyon’s, had already written an elegy for him. It’s called The Thermal Stair and it’s a blinding bit of poetry that evokes the artist, Cornwall and its landscape, especially the mining areas around St Just. It also celebrates Lanyon’s love of glider flying that he took up in the late nineteen fifties and which gave his work an added dimension. Unfortunately he died following a gliding accident; he survived it with relatively minor injuries but then suffered a blood clot whilst recovering in hospital. In his poem, Graham calls Lanyon, ‘restless, loveable man’ and you can sense this in his painting that although abstract is suffused with passion and movement. A local connection—he taught at the Bath Academy of Art at Corsham Court in the fifties.

In the creative writing sessions we rarely have a theme, although one often emerges. We have thought about favourite places, favourite paintings and painters and recently I brought in a book of photographs (A Photographic History From the Victorians to the Present Day by Nick Yapp). It was fascinating to see and hear how an image sparked off memories and stories (but didn’t leave us any time to write). I’m sure we will return to this book again. Using blank post cards is another way of capturing thoughts and ideas. They are a handy size to carry in a pocket, but also give just enough space to write a short piece of prose or a poem or a sketch. J is a great exponent, often combining words and pictures in one composition.

Recently we had students from Wiltshire College doing work experience with us and they sat in on one session and were persuaded to write a personal response to working with the homeless and vulnerable. This was putting them on the spot but they wrote thoughtful and insightful pieces. I was impressed by their positive and mature attitude. I’m sure that at that age I wouldn’t have been as clued up as they seemed to be.

Elvis is alive and…living in Chippenham? This is what C wrote:

The day I met Elvis everything had started routinely. Climbing out of the pool of slurry that had formally been my bedroom, I snatched what change I could visualise, and wove somewhat unsteadily into the cold.

And there he was, bold as brass. I cleared my eyes of mucus to be on the safe side, but the vision remained. Was it a simulacrum, a message from the grave, an hallucination? I picked up a packet of frozen peas that the erstwhile legend had dropped on a small child.

“Thank you very much,” said the King in his inimitable Southern drawl.

D put down some words about one of his favourite painters:

Van Gogh enhances beauty

by enhancing the colours,

so that people can see

the beauty of God.

So can’t you see my life is full

of colour? Although I have nothing

I am always free.

I see the light,

the movement and the energy

that flows within the spirit

of the night;

the starry, starry night.

Vincent Van Gogh: ‘Starry Night’

M meditated about some of the eternal questions:


Why are we here?

Where are we going?

What are we doing?

When will we be there?

Who really cares?

Who really knows?

Why are we here?

P was happy with the weather:

Doorway Sunshine

Everyone is more cheerful when it’s sunny,

coming in, cares forgotten for an hour or two-

lines on faces gradually uncreasing

as they chat and eat. Leaving full—

food, friendship, hope, music;

a little learning, even.

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