I attended a Reminiscence Therapy seminar last week. Part of the morning was spent in an interactive Life Story workshop, where several poems on the theme of memory were recited. Then – pause for collective intake of appalled breath – we were all encouraged to write our own poems.
I don’t do poetry (unless you count a series of humorous poetic monologues in the style of Stanley Holloway that I composed when I was at college), and judging by the reaction of almost everyone in the room, neither did anyone else. However, and this might be a particularly British trait, we all knuckled down without a complaint and produced something.
I think it was the word ‘poetry’ that we were all afraid of. It can be difficult to access, but is it just a licence to rearrange sentences, leave words out altogether and employ unusual scansion in an effort to present prose in a challenging manner? Definitely not, I hear you cry.
But I digress.
Back at the workshop, after we’d dispelled the notion that poetry had to rhyme, we seemed to find the process much easier. Some of the resulting efforts that were read out were simply stunning. They weren’t polished or finessed but they were heartfelt and they tapped into areas of our memories we don’t often think about.
The prompts we used in this exercise were:
- Where I come from
- The last time I saw…..
- Ten places where I see my mother/father etc
- A receptacle to hold your memories – a box, tin, table top, bowl, shelf etc. My container of choice was an old Rahat Lakhoum box that had once upon a time had held deliciously sweet and dusty pieces of Turkish Delight.
The whole process got me thinking about how I could use the same prompts in my writing. I’ve got lots of ideas….