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Metamorphosis 2 by Angela J. Phillip

Metamorphosis 2 by Angela J. Phillip

Bookchat: How to write a poem- 1 (and events July 30 onwards)

It’s like a quilted bedspread or a wall-hanging. A piece of music perhaps. So lovely to see and feel what other people have made, but it’s thrilling – and liberating – to create your own. With the aid of Chuma Nwokolo, Jnr, John D. Robinson and Brian Docherty Angela J. Phillip finds out how to  write a poem.

Get it out. Get yourself free of it, then you can see what it is. Shake it out. Like salt out of a shaker. Like water from feathers or a dog coming in from the rain. Like a duvet that needs to air?

Creation needs triggers. Images. Sounds. Smells. One way to find your poem is to look at a picture and let your mind roam. I was involved in a project some years ago. It was called The Hidden Woman Project and some of us painted while others looked at the paintings and wrote something. The picture means something different depending on the person looking. What do you see when you look at the picture above? What would you write? Chuma Nwokolo is a leading Nigerian novelist and poet. At the time he was writer-in-residence at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Here is his poem.

(inspired by Metamorphosis 2, a painting by Angie Phillip)

you stare astounded at my own astonished eyes.
for once, at last, we see.
soon, to feuds and warring clans,
may come this antidote more radical than guns,
more mind-blowing than drugs,
more harrowing,
truly more harrowing – and
nothing more drastic than truly to see the enemy
and his blood; simply to look unblinkingly –
not through our usual black-and-white filters –
but to stare astounded. to stare, and stare until
the truth of sight becomes a mirror to our soul.
until we feel the mettle of his blues,
read his face’s panoply of hues,
his draining pools of dreams, and the
streaks of tears and rust…
so that when his blood
comes spurting redly at our thrust
we cannot look
away. no. and we will own his pain as

© Chuma Nwokolo, Jr. (2008)

Here is another one. Brian Docherty, a local poet widely published and originally from Glasgow, sometimes uses the same method both for himself and when he runs poetry workshops. Have a look at the picture he used. What does it make you think of? Here is his poem.

Rafael - Pope Julius !! from Wikipedia, picture in The National Gallery

Rafael – Pope Julius !! from Wikipedia, picture in The National Gallery

(after Raphael, Pope Julius 11, 1511–12) 

I believe I need to go to Confession,
I have heard too much, am always
weighed down by sin and wrongdoing.

I know I am Il Papa, Vicar of Christ,
Supreme Pontiff, and infallible,
but still, what I learned this morning,

never mind what happened last night,
causes me to reflect, brings me pain,
but I remain the Warrior Pope still.

I shall summon Sister Mary Stigmata
to hear my confession, beg her to wash away
my sins with her tears, rub my aching back.

I will ask her what she has heard about
what my College of Cardinals is planning,
who among them is still my loyal friend.

I shall find time to listen to the younger
Cardinals, and judge their ambitions,
estimate who among them is pure of heart.

Should I promote them, exile them, or
find them a Province suited to their talents?
And what of my most senior Counsellors?

Is it time to consider their retirement?
I should know which have resources,
a villa in the hills, are one step ahead.

Perhaps I should trust in God’s mercy,
prepare my own villa, or keep them
guessing what sort of Father I really am.

© Brian Docherty (2018)

Here is an extract from what Brian wrote about the process.
“This poem was drafted during a writing workshop I led at the Austin International Poetry Festival 2018. The workshop was titled Re: Writing The Rules, and used a version of Sean O’Brien’s exercise ‘The Rules’ to generate first person monologues as responses to works of art. This is an example of ekphrasis, where the object is not to write about the artwork, but to imagine that the painting, photograph, or other work represents a scene from anther world or parallel universe where things are different and the monologue illustrates some aspect of this place…….This is only one aspect of my ongoing praxis as a writer, but in general, I draft fast and revise slow.”

John D. Robinson, a local poet who is also widely published and whose second volume of poems Singing Arias is due out on July 31 (see under New Books below), usually uses a confessional approach. In his poems, he speaks to himself as well as to his reader.


ghost in the rain

ghost in the rain

Hang in there
like a ghost falling
into the rain,
like a ship drifting
into a smothering fog,
hang in there
like it’s your last
breath, the final
word said,
the last page
read and turned,
hang in there
and scream the
injustice you feel,
that you see, as a
third of the world’s
human population
hang in there
like heaven itself
awaiting its fate,
like waiting for the man
on a street-corner
who will make things
good again,
hang in there
it takes.

© John D. Robinson (from Hang in There, Uncollected Press, 2019)

Here is an extract from John D. Robinson’s interview with Bold Monkey (2019)
“I guess it is mostly confessional and for sure is based on true events that I have been witness to, experienced or they are stories given by the people I meet, sometimes only very briefly, but sometimes that is enough to sense the sorrow or the joy and I try and capture this with a straight forward direct delivery, I think any other approach would not possibly have the resonation, the clarity and depth that I am reaching for.”

for more information, please see:
Chuma Nwokolo Jnr – website
Brian Docherty  Poetrypf ; Wombwell Rainbow Interview
John D. Robinson – Interview with Bold Monkey (July 26, 2019)
New books

John D. Robinson
Singing Arias – out July 31, 2019 – order locally or from Analog Press.

Steve Amos and Bronwen Griffiths
Silverhill Press are delighted to announce the publication of two new works of prose, Bronwen Griffiths‘s Listen With Mother, and Steve Amos‘s Two Sides of an Indie Dad. More information and ordering on our website.
You can also buy these from The Bookkeeper Bookshop 1a Kings Rd, St Leonards

Pete Donohue
Poetry is Feathers – order locally or from Analog Press

Hastings Literary Festival 30 August – 1 September 2019

Lucy Cooke

Lucy Cooke

Sun 1 September 10.00 am St Mary in the Castle The Unexpected Truth about Animals a talk given by tv presenter and zoologist, Lucy Cooke. The talk, based on Lucy’s book of the same name, will be lifting the lid on some familiar animals which – it turns out – we don’t really know at all. The show is suitable for children aged 12 and above.

Tickets for The Unexpected Truth About Animals are available through Hastings LitFest website or from St Mary in the Castle.

Sarfraz Manzoor

Sarfraz Manzoor

Sat 31 August 19.00 – 22.00 at Kino Teatr, St Leonards Blinded by the Light a film about a teenager of Pakistani descent growing up in the 80s and finding comfort in Springsteen’s music. It is based on the autobiographical book by Sarfraz Manzoor who will be there to talk about it.

Tickets for Blinded by the Light with Sarfraz Manzoor are available from Kino Teatr or by clicking the link on the Hastings LitFest site.

See the recent Guardian article Bruce Springsteen changed my life and so did my best friend Amolak

For the full programme for the Hastings Literary Festival, please see: Hastings Litfest Programme

Bookbuster 39 Queens Rd, Hastings
Thurs 15 August 6 – 9 pm £2 entry Sheer Poetry – an open mic poetry night

Printed Matter Bookshop 185 Queens Rd, Hastings TN34 1RG
Mon 19 August 6 pm Planning meet for ‘Spirit of Tressell’ fest.

The Bookkeeper Bookshop 1a Kings Rd, St Leonards
from Carol Dennard – ‘….we sneaked a peek at some of the work that is going on in the ExploretheArch House of Marcelle and,with those pictures in mind, we are thrilled once again to be selling tickets for the performances taking place from the 29th July to the 17th August.

The Literary Shed Writing Sessions run by A. Vasudevan
Two-hour weekly writing sessions in safe, creative spaces in Hastings and St Leonards
Tues 6 Aug, 10–12 am (free) at Sea Kale, 29 London Rd, Saint Leonards-on-sea TN37 6AJ
On the second Thursday of each month, there is also a writing critique group in which members share work.
For further information, please email:, subject: WRITE-INS.

Writing Courses from CWP with New Writing South
2 year Creative Writing Course
Advanced Writing Course
Autobiography and Life Writing Course
for details on all courses, please see  Creative Writing Programme in collaboration with New Writing South

Taster Sessions on Sat 7 September at Sussex Coast College (next to the station)
Autobiography and Life Writing Programme (2-year) 10.30 am – 12.45 £10
Creative Writing Course (2-year taught in Hastings in 2019) and The Advanced Writing Workshops 1.30 pm – 3.45 £10
For further information on the two-year programmes and courses go to

Well, folks, that’s it for this week. We’ve melted and freshened up. Here’s wishing you a creative week.

Thanks for reading.

Angela J. Phillip

Image of Metamorphosis 2 – Angela J. Phillip
Image of Pope Julius 11 – Rafael from Wilipedia
Image of Ghost in the rain – from adapted by Paul Way-Rider
Images of Lucy Cooke and Sarfraz Manzoor supplied by Hastings Literary Festival



Posted 09:00 Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019 In: Hastings Bookchat

Also in: Hastings Bookchat

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