Our group of talented young writers always seem to be up for a challenge. Even so, we had to wonder whether we’d set the bar too high this month. The November workshop provided an opportunity to focus on structure in a way that we haven’t before.
We began by reintroducing the writers to the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. When we asked whether they knew the story, two participants shared duties in retelling it to the group, as a lead in to our main exercise of the day.
The main thing we wanted the participants to understand is the importance of structure in creative work. Artistic rules can be bent, but you have to know what they are in the first place.
To start the main exercise, we shared A.E. Stallings’ poem Another Lullaby for Insomniacs, introducing the writers to a poetic form called a pantoum. Repetition is integral, but the art of this form is in how that is executed. Alongside an example written by Olivia, participants seemed to get to grips with how the form worked very quickly, and this allowed them to branch out into writing their own pantoum poems.
The discussion was lively as the writers grappled with which lines repeated in order, and in some cases struggled to fill in the gaps. Like an optical illusion, the more you look, the easier the pantoum form is to see.
For the final part of the workshop, we returned to an old favourite exercise, choosing elements from a given image to inspire a new story. After a demanding main activity, this was a welcome opportunity for light relief.