Saturday, 9 September 2017

Kaos of life comes in all different types

Life in Order, by Stewart (detail)

Observe yourself when the mind is viciously dismantled
As the plummeting connections descend from fields above
Defences fail and life falls into a dark disarray 
Observe yourself when the mind is viciously dismantled
Wondering why others are reluctant to be impressed
Pain remembers when they land you with truth
Observe yourself when the mind is viciously dismantled
As the plummeting connections descend from fields above.


Writing poems is a gamble, like any art you've no guaranteed outcome. That is what gives it the possibility that it'll surprise you, and with surprise comes new understandings. 

The two poetry sessions I've run at Tom Harrison House felt like even more of gamble. THH is a centre for veterans who are trying to find a way out of addiction and are going toe to toe with some serious life issues, so personal stakes are high. But these people are in no mood to pussyfoot. The group have been facing their problems square on, and in doing so they've opened themselves to change. This was their second session with me and once again they plunged into writing with the zest of people who feel they've nothing to lose.

We started off by talking about personal armour, the layers of protective mechanisms we all build to keep the bumps of life at bay. It was a fascinating discussion about self-protection, because the people talking had such deep experience of physical armour and of psychological attack. One man is a firefighter and he described the danger of being over-armoured, that you becomes lulled into feeling invincible when your in the middle of something that might kill you. Another man described a similar over-protection, but this time identified psychological manipulation as armour keeping people at bay. As a contrast, for Stewart and Alan, armour is the strength offered by other people, community, the support they need to keep well. 

And so to the poems. This week we wrote about three words: chaos, order, safety. Crisis and resolution. And I offered three poem forms: tanka (an old Japanese form), triolet, or free verse. A wide range of people, a wide range of responses. We will post all the poems on the blog in the next while, but let's end today with this from Stewart: wry and heartfelt, it measures the precise weight of his armour.

3 nights awake, powder fuelled
3 nights watchful: looking seeing staring
3 what when why
3 days dead sleep, dreamless pitch darkness
3 times unlucky, wives' tears tell tales.


Life in Order, by Stewart

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