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Regular news and insight from our many poets, writers, educators and facilitators

02 July 2021

Posted by Chrissy Sturt

Pineapples in the Monastery

Here are the zoom faces, appearing like honeybees to sup the nectar of this sacred session: worker wings beating strongly in readiness for the tasks ahead. 

Fancy image, eh? 

Only possible because I’ve had my creative fix, with these excellent women, ably led by novelist Natalie. 

As we bend our heads obediently, pen in hand, it would be easy to feel overawed, dazzled, struck dumb by the assembled talent. Sometimes I am. But it’s a space to grow. And this time I come with a unique status.

‘Do not disturb me,’ I instruct my husband. ‘I am Writer of the Blog.’

            ‘What?’ The news rolls off him, another unfathomable of the writing world. 

            ‘Just, shhhh, don’t come in.’

Today’s theme is rooms and spaces, how we inhabit them as writers, how they inspire. 

Natalie boots us over the edge, straight into freewriting.

 I find myself describing this pockmarked desk, covered with stains, clawed by cats, strewn with crumbs because writing – more than anything else – makes me greedy. Had to preload with chocolate before this session. Waved my wrapper as we said our hellos. Luckily, another chocolate-head waved her wrapper back. They’re a friendly bunch, see.

Natalie is screen sharing. 

Read this, Messy Room by Shel Silverstein. 

It speaks to me immediately – funny, quick, cluttered with chaotic verbs, exactly how I move through my own home – things wedged/thrown/hung/jammed. 

On screen—smiles, laughs. Yes, we all relate. 

Next – dash off a haphazard list of the objects around you. Don’t think too much. 

My list come out prosaic, clunky, judgy. 

Stapler – broken

 Crumbs – yesterday’s oatcakes

Password book, by my PC – hack me now!

 Carpets – dirty

 Cupboards – open at own risk

Framed pictures – when kids were cute

Printer – coax, don’t kick

Others recite their lists. 

Man, these bards could make a receipt read like Shakespeare. 

Hearing humdrum objects spun into family history, love and loss – I reel for a moment, start to look more closely at these zoom backdrops, so evocatively described. The calm, soothing tones of one room – so like its owner voice. The pictures behind another – refined and elegant, like this writer’s words. Crammed shelves on view somewhere else speak of a full, flamboyant life shared with books.

            Now look at this, The Room of Other Women Poets, by Eavan Boland

Our session turns a corner, into full-blown lyricism. This poem evades easy understanding, sets me adrift for a while. But as we break it down, the sense of loss and loneliness builds until I am awash with the moment conjured. We each take something different; for me it’s a writer imagining trespassing in another writer’s room, the kaleidoscope of emotions unleashed by the sight of her desk and chair.

            Imagine you are in another writer’s room. 

I go instantly to the tiny space of a longstanding writer friend. She appears here for our online chats, emerald fairy lights setting off her green eyes (by chance, not design). I stand and marvel at the tsunami of her creative endeavour – sewing, felting, crochet, watercolour … and writing. Her metal sign – Rejection is Proof of Effort – takes me straight to all the ‘no thank yous’ we have shared, together, over several years, knitting us together like needles. 

It’s the journey Natalie reminds us, and I try to fold her wisdom into my heart. It’s the friends you meet, the process, the doing. NOT the end goal. That’s irrelevant. 

            Next we read Hanging Fire by Audre Lorde: a black woman poet, writing in the 1970s. She’s written a fourteen year old girl, cooped up in a tiny bedroom: all the exotic, heartfelt melodrama of that age conveyed in just a few loose lines. As we collectively marvel at Lorde’s skill, a thick man leg appears in my screen. 

I click mute just as my husband says, ‘… been sick. Needs collecting.’ 

Always, always domesticity intrudes on my writing time, no matter how I sanctify it. 

            I shoo him away with headmistress severity, and return just as Natalie brings up a photo of a monastic dormitory in Greece. It’s austere, unattractive, one thin curtain framing a window onto a tree-clad mountain. 

Write a version of you, turning up here. 

Oh man this’ll bring out the poets. 

Maybe because we’ve just been reading about teenagers, I strop off in the opposite direction, dashing off a crazy scene where a terrible materialistic woman is on the rampage, screaming to her partner to put an offer in. She stands in the plain, whitewashed room, planning to plaster it with pink flamingos and golden pineapples, drape it with velvets and silks. And get up to goodness knows what.

I read it, my voice catching slightly. Did I lower the tone?

Natalie is laughing. Very Carrie Bradshaw she says, with a wink. 

            This is So:write – all types welcome, writers new and old – Sex in the City X Shakespeare. 

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