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Regular news and insight from our many poets, writers, educators and facilitators

11 May 2020

Posted by Matt L T Smith

Ideas for a Sign

If you had to describe your week as three scoops of ice cream what flavours would you pick? We are strawberry, mango and crude oil, we are two scoops of chocolate and one scoop of strawberry, hiding in the chocolate, we are ice cream served on a silver platter, three scoops of toffee with white chocolate sprinkles on top, we are three scoops of ice cream with random trailings left  over from the last customer served, (perhaps a strawberry surprise in chocolate?) An ice cream headache that lasts the whole week, but still tastes just as sweet. 


To snap us out of our collective brainfreeze Antosh guides us through a short piece from Lydia Davis, Idea for a Sign, where on the train she dreams that each passenger has a sign around their neck telling us how they’re a bad commuter. He then encourages the group to build a character and think about what sign that character would wear? What habits or qualities represent them? 


We move next to look at Arda Collins piece The News, a poem in which a fire rages next door and the narrator receives it with an ambivalent coldness. Antosh describes that in Collins piece “the self is a stranger to the voice writing, it taps into something quite interesting, what it means to receive news, it’s almost unimpressed with the fire next door.” Antosh then directs the group to return to their characters, and think about how they would receive news. 


For a final turn to complicate and flesh out the groups characters we look at Owl in Law by Joe Dunthorne, in which an owl is used to explore the parent/in-law dynamic. The group uses this to write about their characters through the lens of an animal. 


With new characters developed from an ever shifting meaty freewrite our writers finish today’s session. I look forward to seeing where they take these characters in the weeks to come. 

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