Tag Archives: creative writing

Before My Voice Disappeared …

ANALYSING THE DISTINCTIVE VOICE

CHARCOT’S PET

Before my voice disappeared
like a rabbit up a sleeve
I wanted to be a singer
in the Folies Bergère.

The doctor is a kind man
he keeps me warm,
he feeds me seed cake
and Assam tea.

But sometimes he makes me crawl.
Pick up the crumbs
my little goose.

At night I lie beside him
more silent than a blade of grass.
I allow his cold fingertips
to circle my heart.

Tomorrow, he says,
I must rehearse for the show
in the auditorium of the Saltpêtrière.
The doctors will love me.

He has made me a hat
of peacock feathers.
He has taught me to bark.

When he stares into my eyes
he can make me do anything

But he can’t make me sing.

That poem, written while studying for an MA in Creative Writing in Chichester, was an early attempt to write in another person’s voice. It became the title for my first small published collection.

The person in question was Blanche Wittman, a patient of Jean-Martin Charcot, the first of the great European theorists of hysteria. Blanche was among the main attractions at Charcot’s frequently staged events for members of his neurological service at the Saltpetriere Hospital.

A reviewer in Magma observed: ‘[Charcot’s] domineering personality is vividly evoked in the poem. Although I find it hard to square the poem’s purely submissive image of Blanche with other accounts – of a bossy, capricious woman who was nicknamed the queen of the hysterics – the poem, like the collection, succeeds beautifully on its own terms’.

However, perhaps the reviewer had missed the nuances contained in the last lines ‘he can make me do anything, but he can’t make me sing.’ Blanche Wittman, even under the hypnotic spell of the doctor, possesses the ultimate power.

Other reviewers described my voice as ‘beguiling’, ‘distinctive’, ‘brave and new’, although the voice that spoke to me, my own voice, had rarely felt that way. Meanwhile, I came to realise that the voice in the poem was not really that of Blanche Wittman, but my own. I had unwittingly tapped into my own psyche. Poetry had helped me to create a voice from the tension which hovered between between desire and fear.

In contrast then, here’s a relatively new poem which taps into the more defiant scale of my spectrum Continue reading

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6 Aug – Omega Centre- Portsmouth

FREE CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP

Wednesday 6 August – 10am – 1pm

Explore the healing potential of the written word in this second taster sessions. Playful exercises based on inspirational texts will be used to help fire your imagination, develop creativity and improve the memory.

For booking or further information: Tel: 02392 291 346

E mail: portsmouth@wea.org.uk

 

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28 July – Omega Centre – Portsmouth

FREE CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP

10am – 1pm

Explore the healing potential of the written word in this taster session. Playful exercises based on inspirational texts will be used to help kindle the imagination, develop creativity and improve memory.

For booking or further information: Tel: 02392 291 346

E mail: portsmouth@wea.org.uk

Omega Centre, Omega Street, Southsea PO5 4LP.

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March 2012 – Creative Writing Workshop – The Art Stop Cafe

The Poetry and the Environment workshop and reading will be held at the Art Stop Café, Eastney Community Centre, Portsmouth.

 

This workshop is run in partnership with Tongues & Grooves in the Community.

 

 

 
 

 

 
 
 
 

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