Tag Archives: poetry

Finding the Words

May – July 2016

A pilot poetry project for people living with dementia, based at Newman Court Resource Centre in Basingstoke.

PEOPLE LIKE US

People like us we didn’t go abroad.

We went to the beach on a charabanc.

There were so many people you had to fight for space.

We sat with our clothes on. Chocker block.

They didn’t have tights in those days.

The deckchairs used to end up upside down.

Two bob for an hour. All day for a pound.

We used to buy a Mr Whippy in a wafer.

We were easily pleased.

My mum knitted me a two piece

and when I went for a swim —

the weight of the water made it drop!

You could hear the mums and dads shouting:

‘Don’t kick the sand over there!’

What pleasure was it really?

It was a big event to go down to the sea.

Group Poem

www.anvilarts.org.uk

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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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March 2015 – Book Launch – Square Tower

Maggie Sawkins will be launching her new collection, Zones of Avoidance, based on the live literature production that won last year’s Ted Hughes award, in Portsmouth on Saturday 28 March.

Ted Hughes award judge Denise Riley described Zones of Avoidance, which was directed by Mark C Hewitt, as “a challenging, painfully open account of a daughter’s addiction, yet it’s an account which also offers graceful good humour. Beautifully written and uncompromising, it’s a modern story that we felt the writer was compelled to tell; it acts as a vivid witness of harsh experiences which aren’t often described in poetry, and Maggie Sawkins’s illuminating descriptions will prove helpful for others to hear.”

In an interview with Write Out Loud last year, Maggie

said: “The story is very personal.  I’d been gathering draft material on the subject over a period of 20 years. Much of it was in the form of diary entries and some was in the form of unsent letters to my grandson, who’s been estranged from my daughter since the age of three. My motivation was to keep a record for him – when someone close to you is gripped by addiction you’re always expecting the knock on the door. I could have written the story as a memoir and perhaps made a lot of money. However, reading back through the drafts, I realised that the ‘truth’ could be told in relatively few words. I think all of us have the one tale to tell and there are different ways of telling it. Writing in poetry enabled me to tease out the terrible beauty from what, in reality, has been a much darker story.”

The launch of the book, published by Cinnamon Press, is at The Square Tower, Old Portsmouth at 7.30pm. Entry is free. More details and Map

Background: ‘The dramatic material provided by living in a battlefield is a gift for any writer’

Music with Bernard MacDonagh and Claire Ward

 

Zones of Avoidance

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My interview with Greg Freeman from Write Out Loud

‘Earlier this year Maggie Sawkins won the Ted Hughes award for innovation, with Zones of Avoidance, a poetic account of a daughter’s addiction that is also an ambitious multimedia presentation using film, voices and sound. Sawkins, a teacher and the organiser of the long-running Tongues&Grooves poetry and music night in Portsmouth, talks to Greg Freeman about teasing out the story’s “terrible beauty”; the “affirming” feedback she has received after each performance; and the difficulty she has had in persuading some theatres and festivals to include Zones of Avoidance in their programmes.’

Click here for the full interview:
http://writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=45649

 

 

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December 5, 2014 · 7:05 pm

Oct – Zones of Avoidance – Portsmouth

ZONES OF AVOIDANCE

Winner of the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry

Written and performed by Maggie Sawkins

Directed by Mark C Hewitt with video sequences by Abigail Norris and music by Nick Evans

Thursday 30 October | 7.30pm

David Russell Theatre, Portsmouth Grammar School, High Street, Old Portsmouth

Tickets: £10 | £8 | £5 under sixteen

14-PressRelease-THAWinner

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October 2012 – 20×12 Local Writers – Southsea Library

20×12 is a showcase for new writing and new writers from Portsmouth.

I will be appearing at Southsea Library on Friday 26 October  from 12.20 to 12.32 precisely!

Free event.

Visit portsmouthwriters.tumblr.com for individual author dates, biographies and work.

www.portsmouthbookfest.co.uk

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September 2012 – Poetry Lido – The Art Stop Cafe

The new term of Poetry Lido will take place on Saturdays at The Art Stop Cafe, Bransbury Park, Eastney.

Dates: 29 September, 13 & 20 October, 10 & 24 November.

There will be an opportunity for participants to read at a Poetry and Music Evening on Friday 7 December.

3.00 – 5.30pm

5 sessions – £50 payable in advance

Cheques payable to: Tongues&Grooves in the Community, c/o 28 Chelsea Road, Southsea, Hants PO5 1NJ

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