Welcoming the Change Minds group back to another enjoyable morning at The Belfry Arts Centre in Overstrand on the North Norfolk coast, to continue writing poetry, drawing on case records from St Andrews Hospital. Martin Figura, the poet leading the session said ‘You can make up your own folklore’ as participants were asked to think about what can be known.
The session began with Martin reading the group a poem.
What is Worth Knowing? (1986)
That Van Gogh’s ear, set free
wanted to meet the powerful nose
of Nevsky Avenue.
That Spain has decided to help
NATO. That Spring is supposed to begin
on the 21st March.
That if you put too much salt in the keema
just add a few bananas.
That although the Dutch were the first
to help the people of Nicaragua they don’t say much
about their history with Indonesia.
That Van Gogh collected Japanese prints.
That the Japanese considered
the Dutch to be red-haired barbarians.
That Van Gogh’s ear remains full of questions
it wants to ask the nose of Nevsky Avenue.
That the vaccinations for cholera, typhoid and yellow fever
are no good – they must be improved.
That red, green and yellow are the most
That turmeric and chilli powder are good
disinfectants. Yellow and red.
That often Spring doesn’t come
until May. But in some places
it’s there in January.
that Van Gogh’s ear left him because
it wanted to become a snail.
That east and west
meet only in the north and south – but never
in the east or west.
That in March 1986 Darwinism is being
reintroduced in American schools.
That there’s a difference
between pigeons and doves, although
a ring-dove is a wood pigeon.
That the most pleasant thing is to have a fever
of at least 101 – because then the dreams aren’t
merely dreams but facts.
That during a fever the soul comes out
for fresh air, that during a fever the soul bothers to
speak to you.
That tigers are courageous and generous-hearted
and never attacked unless provoked –
leopards are malicious and bad-tempered.
That buffaloes too,
water buffaloes that is, have a short temper.
That a red sky at night is a good sign for sailors,
for sailors….what is worth knowing?
What is worth knowing?
By Sujata Bhatt
The group then discussed the poem, quite ‘random!’. Martin suggested to try not to make sense of it but to look at the devices used in the poem. A way of connecting different pieces of random information that create a poem. Thought that the poem questions that even though you know something e.g the start of the seasons, that facts can change. Discussion about the reference to having a fever, ‘maybe a way of setting the artist free?’. The group questioned ‘Is this facts?’, ‘some of them are but do they have to be true?’. ‘A mixture of facts, old wives tales and folklore’. ‘Or is it just what the poet believes in. The poem has a voice of authority, telling us stuff expecting us to believe them!’. ‘Or is this just the experience of a feverish mind?’, ‘ An open ending to the poem with the same question to make you think’.
Martin talked about metaphorical truth, where writing can make stuff up to be metaphorically true instead of factual. Also talked about the use of rhythm and rhyme using the connection of word repetition e.g Van Gogh’s ear. Suggested for the group to consider using some of these techniques in their writing. To look at their case studies on a deeper level, to find the deeper connection through imagery and sensory information that this brings up within you.
Participants spent the rest of the morning working on their creative writing. Interesting to look at how each participant is developing their own style. One participant has very beautiful script, which looks like the script in the case records. Looking at the different aspects which connect participants to their chosen case study, ‘their pain’, ‘their age and occupation’ or ‘a similar story’.
The next Change Minds session is on 10th March at The Belfry Arts Centre where the group will start to explore visual creation with paint and making books.