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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds Hi, my name is Helen Mort and I’m a lecturer in Creative Writing here at Manchester Metropolitan University. Today I’m running a poetry workshop with some current and previous MA students, where we’ll be talking about people’s poems hearing new work, and giving feedback on each other’s poetry. Hi everyone. Thanks for coming to this poetry workshop. It’s quite a quick fire poetry workshop today, so we’re going to look at the poems fairly briefly. The usual workshop format and guidelines apply. It would be great if each of you could read out your poem before we start talking about it.

Skip to 0 minutes and 42 seconds And if the author of the poem doesn’t mind staying quiet throughout the discussion, then we can bring you back in at the end to respond. Does anyone got any questions or anything they want to ask before we get started? OK, great. Let’s start with your poem, Natalie, and we can go around in a kind of semi-circle. So, yeah, let’s start with you. That’ll be great. The Zone In any field it’s rare, but when it’s seen it’s more like dance than anything. There’s something show-biz about flow. Like this; on every stage there’s one with jazz-hand gestures on the beat, an eyebrow raised, as if they’ve fathomed grace. Hips and shoulders ripple out to heads and toe-tips, click-heel-kick and sixties girl-group handclaps.

Skip to 1 minute and 36 seconds I’ve seen it on the motorway -

Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds a hi-vis workman plucking cones: balletic bend and shoulder-lift, then up in threes. a clean arc to the moving van. A shimmering of satisfaction in each stride. Does anyone want to kick off discussion of “The Zone?” What did you think? I really loved it. I liked the way that the grace and the flow of the poem was wedded to the meaning, if you like. That it had a flow and a grace, as if the poem itself was in the zone, or the zone. So I loved that. I loved it, too. I thought it was a very visual and sonorous poem. It’s got some beautiful sounds in there, particularly the sounds of the hips and ripple, tips, click-heel click, and ’60s.

Skip to 2 minutes and 37 seconds It feels really good to read out loud, doesn’t it, which gets back to the grace of it. I think it’s a really well crafted poem. I definitely picked up on how nice it was to read aloud, but I think it’s one of those that everyone– it’s a really accessible poem in that way. And everyone could read it, and everyone could read it well. But then, having said that, when you just read it, and I heard you read it for the first time, it was particularly beautiful coming from you. Which is great, actually. Good style.

Skip to 3 minutes and 6 seconds It’s all the internal vibes and all the echo. It’s all so beautiful, it’s lovely. So tenderly observed, isn’t it, as well. It was really, really nice and I enjoyed so much of it. It was just a pleasure to read. And my only real thought was that in perhaps the more overt statements about flow, perhaps weren’t needed– like, “there’s something showbiz about flow.” I almost felt that that was setting me up for some kind of refrain, actually, which then wasn’t picked up on, almost like a villanelle or something. And I wondered if– because the details that you’ve picked out are quite understated. It’s quite a gentle illustration of that flow, so I wondered if we needed telling about the showbiz.

Skip to 3 minutes and 49 seconds I don’t know whether people may disagree. Sorry, I think you were going to say something before. I was only going to say that I love– as you’ve read it especially, but as you read it in your head it’s obviously very soft and smooth, and flows. But then I love the images you’ve brought out like motorways, highviz, workmen, moving vans. It’s a really nice contradiction that works really well together. I know this is ridiculously brief but with the timings we’re working to, I think we’re going to have to bring Natalie in. Is that OK? Yeah. Don’t know what to say, really. Thank you. Yeah, it’s a poem that I’ve worked on quite a bit, but it’s changed.

Skip to 4 minutes and 35 seconds It’s been longer and shorter, and longer and shorter. Yeah, just really helpful to get a feel for what you think is working and maybe needs looking at again. Yeah, thanks. Great, it’s working really well. Thank you.

Giving feedback

In the clip (above) Natalie reads her poem ‘The Zone’, and the students comment on each other’s work and discuss the kind of feedback they receive. We asked them the following two questions:

1) When you give feedback, what crosses your mind?

2) What is the best kind of feedback you receive?

Hearing their answers, are there things you might try to be aware of when it is your turn to give feedback yourself?

Additional workshop videos

Workshop 2: Hilary reads her poem ‘How to Wear a Bee Dress’

Workshop 3: John reads his poem ‘Suicide Attempt with Turtles Hatching’ Content note: This poem discusses suicide

Workshop 4: Daisy reads her poem ‘Red Willow’

Workshop 5: Grace reads her poem ‘The Season’

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How To Make A Poem

Manchester Metropolitan University

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