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

08 January 2024

Posted by By Tabitha Hayward

A History of Water

In our first workshop back, we were delighted to welcome back the regular cohort, along with welcoming some new faces - and we're so pleased that this workshop group is now fully booked!

The theme for this term will be 'Water'. We started by free writing about water, responding to a few prompts around our relationship with water - including ways we use water, a memory with water, a myth/legend/family story about water.

Next, we read the opening of the play 'A History of Water in the Middle East' by Sabrina Mahfouz, discussing the themes of the play and also the use of form, moving between the different 'states' of lecture, gig, and 'spy world'.

Inspired by this, the writers worked on their own 'History of Water' pieces - in the form of script, monologue. or poem. Here are some of the wonderful pieces:

By David:
An expensive mass, blue looking at sea, green in lakes, transparent in streams.

Those long walks with Grandparents around the castle moat and sea wall. The water in the moat long since dissipated. The sea an ever constant.

The seasons less rhythmic than yesteryear. More floods, heatwaves than ever before.

Turn on the tap and it's there, but conscious of the amount being used, now I am paying for it.

Bath water for an infant with toys to play. For me a shower straight in and out. I cannot remember the joys of a squeeze it and water comes out plastic Frog from my early days. 

A History of Water - by Aurora
The history of water begins in a blanket,
smothered but still cold, rigid. It’s a fabric
that is bright black, speckled like eggshell,
mottled in a discordant jigsaw-puzzle of
joyful stars and mournful moons when
the sky was nothing more than a memory
belonging to squealing clay that had yet
to squall for the first time. A brush of symphony.

Ice is genesis. Ice is nova. Ice is the birth
of cosmic lanterns at the wick, and ice spits
on the flame as it dies. Ice is dry. Ice is sand,
millions of starlit pebbles, dragged across
galaxy beach on universe coast, each one
a begging spark. Ice is DNA, and it burns.

It burns at the beginning, where it started.
Picture it: a newborn, foundling, tossing and
turning in its innocence, in its dark cot. It has
the first mobile, something to playfully poke at
with flaring arms as they spin slowly, like magic.
Like wind, though that doesn’t really exist yet.

A blink enters the mobile, crosses the crib like
a torch beam, thick. It disappears, and the baby
gurgles, coughing. One of the orbs in its toy
is changing colour, an irritated red to cold grey.

Now see the lava lakes, the streams of magma,
the splitting seams of a mantle that could be
disguised in oak, or tigers’ pelts. The sky isn’t real,
it's a myth – myths aren’t real yet. Rock boils.
It could be mistaken for a spark, but really it’s
an ember, a waiting, a coughing baby around a bigger
coughing baby, spurting and screaming. Then ice,
smooth ice. Not dull; like a bullet, roundshot,
fired from the cold point of deep space, peppered
with starpowder. And it’s swallowed. The baby is
cured, and cries in its relief from pain, dark shadows
crowding around its face like a blur, a thunderstorm.

Wind is now real, and a sky. It glows blue, like water.
The clay can now begin to squeal, and it is moulded
by aeons.

By Lily
In a very broad sense, a lot of things in my life come down to the fact that I was willing to quite literally throw myself into the ocean for the first girl that I ever fancied.

Of course, at the time, it wasn’t any declaration so broad. It was my best friend asking me to join her Cubs group, gappy grin missing teeth and bunches falling out from play, balancing back and forth on a log at playtime with her hands curled over the rope above our heads, and me staring back at her, marvelling at the fact that she wanted me in yet another part of her life, and saying yes.

And then, standing in a wetsuit next to a canoe holding a paddle six weeks later, and realising exactly what that yes meant.

I spent years throwing myself into the ocean for her, six years of being freezing and sandy and covered in ocean salt for half of every year, six years of shivering in garishly patterned towels in a cupboard of a changing room, six years of throwing myself around in boats and laughing and cheering and thinking that I was madly in love with sailing, instead of her.

When I think back on that, on those six years of salty skin and raw hands and ruined hair, I think about how many of us were doing it for the same reason, throwing ourselves into the ocean once a week because of the people that we love.

I doubt anybody else was in my exact situation, realising years after the fact that the feelings wobbling through their chest every summer, the reason why they kept coming back, was a child’s puppy love rather than an adoration for sailing.

However, I wonder how many of us would have continued to do it if there was no love at all.

There was the boy who went to keep an eye on his little brother who was far too scared and shy to come to Scouts alone. There was the boy whose dad was one of the leaders, who bore the freezing hands burnt my rope with a smile on his face, only complaining about how he hated it when we were halfway to Brownsea Island and I was ducked down in the front of his boat, unable to tell him, “Maybe you should stop being a Sea Scout, then?” in case that was the wrong thing to say and he pushed me into the sea for it. There was the girl who was bad-tempered through all four years of Scouts but stayed on after she really should have left, becoming a junior leader for reasons none of us really understood until she would brighten like a bulb at the other junior leader when he walked in.

If you took away that, the fact that we could learn to love sailing (or at least briefly forget our vitriolic hatred for it) because of how it was adored by the people that we loved, then I wondered how many people would be in our troupe, sacrificing ourselves to Whitecliff bay with brave smiles every Monday night.

Would there have been anyone at all?

By Lisa
Such a precious commodity that we all take for granted.  Turn the tap on and it's there.  It's one of our civil rights apparently.  Not allowed to turn off the supply even if the bill isn't paid! not that I have ever tried not paying my bill I mean.  We expect water to always be there, to bath in, drink, water our plants and etc and yet we don't give it the value and respect it deserves.  Despite the floods and droughts of the modern age and all the implications of climate change it's time we revered water for the elixir that it is.  


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