Sarah James

the possibilities of poetry…

Browsing Posts tagged MMU

Some weeks are weeks and a half – others are weeks and several halves! And I’m not talking alcohol halves, though I have enjoyed a glass or two of seasonal mulled wine while away in Manchester.

I was up at  Manchester Metropolitan University for three days as part of my online poetry MA optional on-campus days. Not only did I get to meet some of my ‘virtual classmates’ in person for the first time but we had a fantastic reading from Carol Ann Duffy and some excellent workshops from Michael Symmons-Roberts, Jean Sprackland and Nikolai Duffy. Chris Hamilton-Emery from Salt also gave us a talk about publishing as part of the poetry-packed line-up.

Having sneaked up to Manchester a day early, I also took advantage of the chance to check out the city’s German Christmas market – complete with mulled wine, bratwurst and chocolate fruit kebabs (I’m  not sure how German they were but they tasted good!). While I was there – for the first time in 20 years – I did the full tourist thing and braved the big wheel. Nervous though I was (I’m not great with heights!), the beautiful views soon distracted me from any fear.

My other great discovery in Manchester was, of course, the fantastic Olympic 50m swimming pool. My hotel and the MMU campus were so near I could almost step out of bed into the water. I managed to cram in two early morning swims before classes started – and would have gone for a third if I hadn’t gone down back with a cold by the end of the trip!

All in all, I’d say if you get a chance to visit the city, then do. And if you can squeeze some poetry in too, so much the better!

Unfortunately, I did arrive home to find I was in the Bad Mummy stakes for having forgotten it would turn advent calendar month while I was away! Still – it was only four days late and I’ve been clambering back up the stakes by getting the Christmas decorations out and joining in a weekend of sports and  Dance Central on X-box connect. Despite being soundly and repeatedly thrashed by a seven year old, I have to admit, it has been rather good fun – but don’t tell the boys I said so!

This week I’m going to suggest something which is more of a poetry exercise than a prompt – though if it proves inspirational too, so much the better.

The idea is based on one of our optional MA homeworks this week and I am using the term translation loosely as I’m going to suggest focusing on sound rather than meaning by finding a shortish section of text written (it doesn’t matter what kind of text) in a foreign language that you are unfamiliar with.

Try to read this piece aloud or in your head as you think it would sound. (It doesn’t matter at all if that’s how a native speaker would say it or completely different.) Then try to write these sounds down as a long string of English words. Don’t worry about trying to make them carry any meaningful sense at this stage, don’t worry about line breaks or if your English words are formed from breaking up or merging together words in the original text. Focus solely on the sounds.

Once you have your string of English words, you can then start to think about shaping it by inserting line breaks, changing words to create some sense of meaning or narrative flow in the poem. It could be that you end up changing most of these words, keeping just one idea/theme/sound from your original ‘translation’. You may retain more – or nothing at all. Even if this doesn’t produce a poem for you, just enjoy having fun with sounds and language. And, as always, if the muse strikes partway through and wants to take you elsewhere, then go with it.

Happy writing – and ‘translating’!

Fizz Bug!

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I have been bugged this week by seasonal ailments – but am now back up and fizzing fit, ready for my trip to Manchester next week for some MA on-campus days.

Not only does MMU have some great workshops, seminars and a reading from Carol Ann Duffy lined up for us, I’m also looking forward to meeting some of my ‘virtual’ classmates in person for the first time.

While I’m up in Manchester, I’ve promised myself a splash in the 50m Olympic pool – I’m inordinately excited about this, as only a swimmer can be! And I’m planning to treat myself to a little Christmas  shopping – fortunately for my husband, my already bulging suitcase should help keep spending under  control.  Though there might just be space for a pair of new shoes 😉 I am now starting to feel a tiny bit festive, so if we also get a light sprinkling of snow this week, so much the better.

Time has definitely borrowed angel’s wings this year as, even writing about Christmas, I still can’t believe it is nearly December already.  It will be 2011 before we know it and I am fizzing this week after receiving the fantastic posters from Malcolm Dewhirst  for my reading in Polesworth Abbey Refectory  on January 18 .

I also have some other exciting projects in the poetry pipeline for next year. But first my trip to Manchester and a 3000-word MA essay assignment to get out of the way 🙁 so that I can truly chill in the warm spirit of Christmas! 🙂

Home Stretch

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National Poetry Day may be over but I’ve been making the theme stretch by enjoying a part-relaxing, part-heavily-MA-laden week at home.

It’s back on the road next week though with a reading at Inkberrow near Redditch on Tuesday lunchtime to prove that this area really is full of talent and variety.

Then on Thursday evening it’s the Birmingham launch of the Bugged anthology at the Ikon Gallery as part of the Birmingham Book Festival. I won’t be reading person this time but the launch will feature other live readings and my poem video version of 7am rising, which is my poem in the anthology.

Meanwhile, if you’re at home, the new Birmingham Book Festival The Loop is now playing on and includes my Helen Bamber Foundation National Poetry Day poem Silent Traffic, as well as lots of other spoken word gems!

The chance for cold feet about starting my online MA in creative writing with Manchester Metropolitan University (not that my toes were ever anything but red hot or, strictly speaking, pink varnished!)  is now well and truly passed as I am now officially enrolled.

Term starts in four weeks, so I’m making the most of the last few days of the summer holiday before I settle down to some serious reading and work.

This week I don’t have a writing prompt. Instead, I’m offering a sneak preview of a new poem video I hope to have up properly on the website and Facebook soon. It seems a particularly appropriate time to post Cold Fingers with so many first-time freshers due to leave home and head off for university in the next few weeks. You can check it out here:

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