Little Mountain Readings and a workshop with Michelle Seminara

I have drafted, delayed and re-drafted this post so many times that it just has to be finished and off my ‘to-do’ list. I had been hoping to settle on a final draft of my workshopped poem, but that will be part of a future post.

Little Mountain Readings continues to be a welcoming and supportive event where everyone is encouraged to share their poetry. In December, two young children performed for the first time with a fun poem about animals read in alternate voices. It is a reminder that poetry does not have to be complex or earnest to find approval. The inaugural Mossy Laureate, chosen as part of the Moss Vale High School Writer in Residence program, also spoke of her passion for poetry and shared some of her work.

Friends and poets who attended the workshop with Michelle delivered poems in grand performative style, or sheepishly read from their phones. Long standing members of the South Coast Writers Centre shared their latest work, yet I was unable to contribute. I was undecided about the direction of my poem after the workshop.

We arrived at Sturt Gallery at 9 am for the four hour workshop ( excluding a generous hour long lunch break) and spent time introducing ourselves. I mistakenly thought Michelle would be addressing us from the front of the room, only to find her sitting beside me, on my right, which made me the traditional starting point – on the speaker’s left.

I passed out copies of my five line response to an artwork Liquid Consonants by Anna Barham from the This is a Voice exhibition. Included in my handout were still images from the 1 minute looped video and another eight lines that I thought could be included. Part of my explanatory discussion also included reference to ideas of mothering, and my visceral reaction to an episode of Sons of Anarchy that included a mother’s brutal murder of her daughter-in-law.

One person at the workshop was familiar with both. This lead to many clarifying questions and decreasing confidence in my usual quick response style to writing poetry. I did receive a number of positive and productive comments, and ultimately felt buoyed through praise and encouragement.

Michelle was very helpful in her feedback, regularly suggesting relevant poets with a similar style that would be worth investigating for each of us as our work was discussed. Michelle was also very generous in sharing her different approaches to writing that have altered over time through personal and employment commitments, although the urge to write underpins her life.

A day or two after the workshop, I was lost in indecision, vacillating between two different poems, one huge emotional exploration or a simple five line response to an artwork. And I still haven’t settled on a final draft. Fortunately, this year I have a Creative Writing and Publishing class at school (as a minor elective) with many students who attended a writing workshop at the Powerhouse for This is a Voice . One of our first projects this year will be the development and production of a ‘voice’ zine, and I’m hoping their feedback will help finish my poem for inclusion.

A fellow member of the Moss Vale Writing Group I attend each month made an interesting observation at our January lunch: workshopping your writing is best achieved when you know and trust the members of your group. This was in relation to her membership of an online writing workshop group, and that some of the least productive yet virulent commentary could be attributed to ‘flash in the pan’ members who demanded attention but could not sustain a collegial commitment.

This gave me a momentary justification for my own procrastination over this unfinished workshopped piece. Even though I feel the benefits of a committed year to the formation and sustained regular meetings of the ETA Writing Teachers initiative, and a deepening of my identity as a writer, I still catch myself in avoidance: the need to have a complete map before writing and posting, and the privileging of school and professional development writing over my own.

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