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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

John Siddique's workshop

John Siddique is the author of several poetry collections. His children's book, Don't Wear It On Your Head, was shortlisted for the CLPE Poetry Award. His latest collection, Recital – An Almamac, is published by SALT. He is currently commissioned by Lancaster University to write a suite of poems looking at migration in Manchester, and is the British Council's writer-in-residence for Los Angeles. He gives readings, mentors and teaches creative writing around the world.

Take a look at his workshop on night poems

What is it about the night that calls to the imagination? As I write this it's the May full moon; often on nights when the moon is strong I sleep poorly, finding myself sitting up at 4am, or getting up to stand outside with a cup of tea and let the night and its secrets pass though me. The night amplifies our focus, filters things into layers, brings us closer to experience, people and feelings (whether we want that closeness or not) or creates separation. Whatever its effect on you, it's a very rich time of day for poets.

There are many great poems about the night. In "Full Moon and Little Frieda" Ted Hughes considers how the evening is scaled down to just his young daughter and himself. Outside, there's a dog barking somewhere, and a bucket clanking. Slowly, his consciousness moves out to take in the greater view – the cows moving, the river flowing – until Frieda calls out to the moon. Phillip Sidney's "Astrophel and Stella" sees him questioning the moon, the night and the higher beings about the constancy of love. Robert Frost's "Acquainted with the Night" has the poet walking around the town seeing and feeling private reflections animated in the rain; the city lights and lanes and the watchman who passes by him as he walks. Sharon Olds' wonderful This Hour lets us in on a quiet evening shared between wife and husband – they're drinking wine, it frees them to talk about close and difficult things, while the night surrounds them and gives its permission. Perhaps before embarking on this workshop task, you could read a few poems, simply for the pleasure of reading


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