Feeling Weird Today? Mental Health and Poetry (date: 20/4)

A poetry workshop by Antosh Wojcik, featuring a soundscape by /weirdtoday

This is a writing session designed to engage with sound and text as a means to write on themes of mental health and the personal.

Techniques we will explore:
– Writing with a ‘lens’.
– Writing from soundscapes.
– Writing the personal.
– Structuring poems.
– Refining our images, metaphors and figurative language use.

Task 1 – ‘Things Found In The Soundscape’ (20 minutes)

It’s important to begin any writing session with some time to ‘generate’ ideas. When we ‘generate’ ideas, we’re taking the pressure off – trying to create something good, finished and whole in the first attempt is impossible! – instead, we’ll take time to create a block of writing we can use going forward.

I find sound to be a great source of inspiration for ideas, feelings, things to write about.

I’ve made you a soundscape to listen to, full of textures, surprises and mood switches to stir the imagination.

 

Spend 10 minutes listening to the ‘Feeling weird today…’ soundscape and writing notes on what you hear, feel, find.

Try to be as specific as possible.

Try to find at least three of the below categories:
– Objects/Things i.e snowglobe, traffic
– Phrases i.e ‘things have been weird lately…’, ‘what happens to a smile in the rain?’
– Textures i.e grit between the teeth, the wind rattling
– Feelings i.e happiness, boredom, doomed, solitude, bliss

Listen again to refine your ideas.

Task 2 – ‘Lens’ (20 minutes)

A ‘lens’ is what a writer uses to change their perspective on a particular subject, to show it in a different way. When we’re writing about ourselves, it can get really difficult because it’s personal, close to what we feel, and exposes who we are, ah!

Using a ‘lens’ can help distance how we feel and in turn, help others connect to that feeling that is so specific to us.

An example:

I can use the title of a poem to establish the lens: ‘My Happiness as a Snowglobe’

I can then use the lens of the ‘snowglobe’ to write about my ‘happiness’. It’s suddenly physical, removed from my close feelings and has become an object. This way I can describe the feeling for someone in a way they can almost hold.

Write a poem using a lens – any form of poem is fine!

1. Select a ‘Feeling’ and an ‘Object/Thing’ from your soundscape notes.
2. Create a title that establishes the lens e.g ‘My (Feeling) as a (Object/Thing)’
3. Explore. See how this allows you to access a personal feeling.

Once finished, give yourself some time to reflect on your writing. Read it back to yourself a couple of times. Did you discover anything about yourself in this exploration?

Task 3 – ‘Bringing Texture to the Things Between Us’ (40 Mins)

This task is going to involve writing about your relationship to someone else. This is a way of writing into particular situations involving others that reveals yourself and how you feel about something.

First, think of someone you would be ready to write about. Someone close to you.

Write down some notes on them – feelings you have towards each other, what you think they might think of you, and any particular situations between you both.

Look back at your notes during the Soundscape exercise. Look at the Textures and Phrases you found. Pick any that could be used to describe your relationship with your chosen person.

Next, read this poem by Selima Hill:

Thickly-frozen Lakes
By Selima Hill

Like blocks of ice on thickly-frozen lakes
creaking as they re-adjust themselves,

my father can be heard behind the door
adjusting to my presence in the bathroom.

from Jutland (Bloodaxe Books, 2015)

Read the poem aloud a few times.

What kind of relationship does the speaker of the poem and their father have?

What ‘textures’ can you find in the opening image? What do they represent?

Notes on the Poem

This four-line poem uses the ‘lens’ of a texture to describe the poet’s personal relationship.

‘Like blocks of ice on thickly-frozen lakes / creaking as they re-adjust themselves’ is an image, which creates a specific texture and shows the kind of person the speaker of the poem is, who their father is and what their relationship is like.

The use of the image also gives the poet some emotional distance to a relationship that is potentially painful to write about. As poets, we can use an image as a ‘lens’ to make it almost safer to write about things that might be hard or challenging.

Hill has written the poem using two-line stanzas. This allows her to build a concentrated image in the first stanza and then connect it to someone or a situation in the second. It’s a useful structure for building a specific texture.

With this all in mind, we’re going to write a poem using this structure and intention.

– Begin the poem with a two-line image using the texture(s) you found in the soundscape.
– Follow this image with two-line stanzas that show your relationship, or a situation specific to the other person. See if you can match the texture you’ve chosen with the situation you write about.
– Follow these stanzas with more two-line stanzas if you find there is more to explore.
– Try and refer back and develop the texture throughout the poem.
– See if you can incorporate any of the phrases you found in the soundscape too.

End of Workshop Reflection (10 mins)

Once you have finished the poem, read it through aloud to yourself a couple of times.
– How was the writing exercise for you?
– Did you uncover anything in writing about the specific person/situation?
– How was it writing in two-line stanzas?
– Does the texture you chose fit, or could it be adapted in a way to better suit the person?
– Writing is largely about self-discovery. Were there any surprising things you found during the writing session? If so, what and why were you surprised by your findings?

If you are aged 11-17 years, don’t forget that you can enter your poems into the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. It is free to enter and there is no theme, so you can enter poems on any topic. Enter by 31 July at foyleyoungpoets.org