My experience of The Writing Room, by Carmina Masoliver.

I described my Writing Room experience as a dysfunctional family on my own blog (well, aren’t they the best types of family?). This was because the consistency of everyone being able to make each workshop was less than ideal. I know this is being changed in the new writing room, as to do the final showcase you need to be able to make enough to develop a piece throughout the process. I think this is a positive change, but that lack of consistency didn’t stop each workshop being something extremely meaningful. Here, I will tell you what I learnt…

Carmino Oliver - Writing Room ShowcaseHumour, Narrative and Partner Work – Dead Poets

Whilst working with Mark Grist and Mixy, we were given pair work. I was immediately out of my comfort zone, usually preferring to work alone, but the reason I was there was to grow as a writer. I started a piece with Ben Jacobs about an argument at rush hour waiting for the train. Maybe it’s that I’m working full time, but this was the second piece I’d written involving travelling on trains. After initial doubts, I was really happy by the end of the session as I’d done two other things I wanted to work on with my writing, which was to write something with a narrative and to use humour. This piece was probably the one I’ve edited the most out of all my writing, and although it didn’t end up fitting with the final showcase, Ben and I plan to work on it more and record it. Both shortlisted for Young Poet Laureate for London, it was great to work with Ben. I also learnt a lot about working with a partner; you need lots of time, dedication and a clear common goal. Although I’m still a solo act, this experience has taught me to take risks and collaborate more.

 

Connections – Joelle Taylor

If it wasn’t for the workshop with Joelle Taylor, things might not have happened the way they have. In this workshop, I also worked on narrative within a poem, but taking unheard voices in a more serious way than the previous session. I had met Slambassador Kayo Chingonyi through my day-job and told Joelle. The next thing I knew, we were both performing at Larmer Tree Festival. I then asked Joelle to host the launch of my new night ‘She Grrrrowls’ which is every first Wednesday at the Gallery Café in Bethnal Green. She was extremely supportive and went beyond her role as host. More recently, I was asked to feature on Reel Rebels Radio as part of ‘Freestyle Fridays’ alongside Joelle and Kayo. Joelle is so warm and supportive to young poets, and I am thankful for the Writing Room for being the seed of this connection.

 

Confidence and Challenge – Roger Robinson

Roger’s session allowed me some time to look at a new poem I’d written. I’d suggested the theme of trains as on my commute to work, I thought of all the possible stories that could be told. Although the final show didn’t match up to this vision, as a group we decided on the idea of journeys (both physical and metaphorical) and we managed to tie the idea together nicely. I was glad to have written the new piece and not only did Roger help during the session, but he also offered a critique of the poem over email. The main point was about restructuring the piece, which I haven’t really done before to past work so it was a great exercise. I ended up performing this piece on the night of the showcase. Roger had also scared us all by emphasising the fact that this was going to be a show, and if we wanted it to be how we imagined, we would have to memorise it… or he would bounce up on stage and tear our papers into pieces. The pressure was on.

 

Flexibility, Understanding and Compassion – The Showcase at Rich Mix

When the day of the showcase came, despite my generally poor memory, I had worked hard to memorise two pieces. I was initially emotional and frustrated when it came to light that the partner piece wouldn’t be performed. It felt like a lot of time and effort had gone into it and I had told the Dead Poets that we were to perform the piece, and for me, it encompassed what the Writing Room was all about. However, the fact that I performed my solo piece and that the joint piece will continue beyond the Writing Room is a much better metaphor for what the scheme offers to young writers.

We each sat at the back of the stage to a large audience and stood up one by one to perform each poem. I rounded up the night with the following lines:

During the delay I derailed myself,
escaped onto the tracks.
My emergency was a red light;
the signal failure told me to run,
reminded me of fields and trees and dreams.

This short piece tied together our pieces and allowed the audience to see the common threads between our pieces. They could see who we were individually and what made us a team – a group of likeminded people trying to make their dreams come true.

For the rest of the evening I felt like the wallflower in my poem. Unsure whether to walk towards the station and go home, or hang around and talk to people, I compromised and chatted to a couple of people, then left when I felt it was time. Semi-autobiographical, but also a more general voice for the introverted and “shy”, my poem showed that I can be awkward in social situations but come alive on stage. And all the wallflowers out there have the power to do the same.

 

You know me as the wallflower

Pressed up against glass,
bodies and newspapers.
Glass without transparency,
bodies without intimacy,
newspapers with blurred words.

 

I peer over your shoulder
like a warm breath,
trying to work out
who you are,
where you’re going.

 

You know me as the wallflower,
but, I don’t smile for you. Sometimes,
you may witness a sorrow you cannot place.
You want to ask if I’m okay,
as you wonder why my eyes well, my body swells
with a habit I just can’t shake,
as damaging as an earthquake,
but soft as a petal,

 

you know me as the strange, quiet one,
the one who you can’t quite put your finger on,
you linger on me just for a second, move on
like a passing thought, a panic
– did you leave the iron on?

 

Mostly, I blend like a colour palette,
but my shoulders are a little too bent forward,
my cheeks flushed, I sometimes sweat,
eyes glance down but speak when met.
I am unknown, and that’s as good as it gets

stuffed up inside here like sausage meat.

Tired eyes are made up with mascara,
hidden with sunglasses.
Heads bend down,
eyes closed, just resting,
or fixed on a game of Tetris,
or not even there, but stretching
out of the window,
out of at patch of sky
through a slit of space.

 

I create characters out of your tattoos,
your scuffed shoes, your bead of sweat,
your lazy eye, your pink silk tie.
Imagine people I haven’t met
out of your plum-red lips,
your bitten-bleeding fingertips,
your eye-brow piercing,
piercing blue eyes, piercing voice
carried through phone lines,
train lines, blood lines

 

and much as we crane our necks,
we wouldn’t see a helicopter crash, so close,
shrapnel flying like a wedding bouquet,
the carriages rolling like a divorce,
eventually leaving Vauxhall for Waterloo,
where the beat of footsteps
cries out for the river,
but is carried underground instead.