Monday 28 February 2011

Knitting Together I

've been holding onto this post for some time, mulling it over, perhaps killing it with too many edits, letting it slide, extending it so that I've had to chop it in two. Today I've resolved to press that 'Publish Post' button at last.

I've also been thinking a lot about what it means to share one's writing and to write with others. I do quite a lot of social writing, partly to try to fight my tendency towards solitude, and I gain a great deal from doing so. As Pat Schneider says, 'Having a place to listen thoughtfully to new work by others and having the option of receiving response to your own writing can be invigorating, encouraging and tremendously helpful'. It can indeed.

The last piece I published here was Sandy's poem for Martin Luther King. It was a piece she first read to me at a Chalk Circle (post-MA group) meeting. Our group usually gets together once a month when we continue the good work we began together on the course by setting deadlines to write to, giving feedback on each other's writing and providing a hand to hold, sometimes figuratively, sometimes physically.

So, at the end of January, there were four of us: Sharon, Sandy, Ali and I, sharing some of our recent work and giving praise and criticism where they were due. Sandy read her poem. As she did so I was aware of a sensation I have often felt around my fellow writers: a creeping, sulking envy. Sandy's poem was annoyingly good. She had played with the struggle of creating a complete work in twenty-one syllables and had made that struggle an integral part of her poem. I listened as she read, at our request, a second and then a third time, apologising as she did so for the poem's lack of polish; and I hated her then, just a little, though I smiled in encouragement and sang its rightful praises.

There is a reason I confess all this to you: whenever I feel writing envy, I know it's a good thing. It means my fellow writer has inspired me, is keeping me on my toes. I hope it means I won't become flaccid and arrogant, although perhaps it's already too late for that. It may be an obvious thing to say, but it seems to me that sharing work, whether it happens online or in a conventional writing group or a classroom, is useful not just for the person whose work is critiqued, but for everyone who reads it.

After hearing Sandy's piece I wondered how I might learn from my writing envy. In the end I decided to weave two of the Street Photography Now instructions together, so that the first twenty-one syllable piece would lead into the second. The first instruction was to, 'Look for a window, through a window, out of a window, or at the reflections on a window,' and the second, 'Slow down. The next picture may be very quiet and close.'

Here they are. They're for Sandy, with thanks for making me so envious.

At the lane's edge, the puddle
is grey-brown ripples,
like a mackerel.
I stand, looking down.

In the field behind
a man taps his spade on his barrow.
His coat is wagtail yellow.