Drop the Dead Poet: Making Poetry From The News – a celebration

New found visual poem by EEN inspired by Instagram-type prompt during course.

I recently finished an online course from the UK’s Poetry School  about making poetry from the news. The news for the last year or so has been bothering me a lot. It looks like we are in the midst of confusing, frustrating and dangerous times.

But anyway —what to do?  When I learned about the Dead Poet course, it seemed like a “sign”, so I signed up.  And I glad I did. The excellent tutor Sarah Hesketh and my excellent course-mates did indeed help me deal with (if not solve) the news, as well as get through a Canadian winter.

The course is being repeated for the summer term. And I think there still may be some spots available but act fast — because great gobs of the news out there still indicate confusion, frustrations and … imminent dangers ahead.  Here’s the course outline and more about Sarah.

It’s always a bit sad when a good course ends, so after the last live chat a week ago, I invited my course-mates to send me a poem (one of the 5 we each wrote during the course, or a new one) and I would publish them here on my blog to celebrate our efforts.

I am very pleased and honoured to share poems from the course by three of my poet friends (Elisabeth PurkisElisabeth Sennitt Clough and Sheila Jacob ) and also a couple from me. Sarah, our tutor, showed us multitudinous ways (old & new) to approach current events. These poems below give you a taste of the possibilities.


Elisabeth Purkis

Big Story

Do you recall not long ago
How TV’s biggest bully
Bid newsmen run to Mar-a-Lago,
Announced “tremendously”

That Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions the Third
Would be Top Advocate
Of our great land, a choice preferred
By over half the Senate.

A gentlemanly cad God-fearing,
Pro-birth but not pro-femme,
Spits LGBT like he’s queering,
Whitewashed Birmingham.

When Warren quoted Coretta King
They shut her up; impugn
A colleague’s name? It’s not a thing.
These old boys stand immune.

About Bill Jeff he sternly said,
No man’s above the law.
But now his words make up his bed,
Expose a troubling flaw.

He stated quite explicitly
There were no talks with Russians,
Reported (or illicitly)
But here’s some news that stuns:

Just in: “A Charge of Perjury”.
They say he could be tried.
But where’s the leader’s fury?
His head of Justice lied!

 


Elisabeth Sennitt Clough

On Loving Him

++++++I Google the Tahoe slut.
He spent last weekend with her
on his yacht. They say
++++++his ex christened his boat
++++++++++++Katie (her name was Ocean).
Harry pours himself into women
++++++as though they were vessels,
++++++++++++they brim over with his sweet-talk.
++++++Tahoe looks like a Fox News anchor –
square jaw, big teeth. I note the cut
of her identikit blonde hair,
++++++study her lips, glossed in pale peach.
++++++These are now exhibits in my case
++++++++++++against her – Harry’s Italian shirt
++++++++++++(so white against his open-deck tan)
++++++has her shade of lipstick
smeared across its front. I present him
++++++++++++with her latest Tweet (I want to show her up):
++++++cycling along the boardwalk in a too-too-short
++++++skirt & barely-there panties, getting lots of whistles!
The sway of his tie in response, however,
++++++is vaguely pornographic.

 


Sheila Jacob

SaveImages of Diana

The fountain circles, half turbulent
half calm but William and Harry
plan a still point of light.

Diana’s mumorial, The Sun says.
Commission a sculpture! pleads
The Guardian’s Arts guru.

Hello and Vanity Fair
splurge on images
of tenderness.

Diana in green cradling baby William.
Diana in red cradling baby Harry.
Diana in cerise cuddling the boys.

William’s white tulips,
Harry’s white roses
on her flag-dressed coffin

and remembrance is cast in flesh
as her sons stride forward,
reach out through their loss.

I was angry too when my Mummy died
William reveals
at a Bereavement Centre.

It takes strength to ask for help
Harry praises paramedics
from the London Ambulance Service.

 


Elly Nobbs

The flat screen – recessed into the clinic’s ceiling

is streaming live, for those killed
that night*,
murdered – shot
in the back as they prayed
at the mosque. The public
funeral is …

1. Azzedine Soufiane
2. Mamadou Tanou Barry
3. Khaled Belkacemi
4. Aboubaker Thabti
5. Ibrahima Barry
6. Abdelkrim Hassane

… at the hockey arena;
the volume’s low
but the translator’s text
is there for
each dignitary.

She digs, cleans where tartar,
hides, asks, ”Do you want
the remote? Change the channel?”
– made supine in the chair, say,
No, my eyes closed
resisting;

when finally I look

– there’s the facing up to it
the TV above
as I squint, past the glare
of the LED operatory lights
examining me.

* A mass shooting occurred on the evening of January 29, 2017, at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City.


And also by me –

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12 comments

  1. Sounds like it was a really excellent and imaginative course, enabling you all to explore your feelings and how you felt about news items. I really enjoyed the selection of poems you have chosen – very different styles and all terrific examples of interpretation. Interesting and inspiring read.

  2. Elly, thanks for sharing how you found the PS course useful. A timely subject, indeed. What a lovely idea, asking for course participants to send you a poem for this blog. I’ve enjoyed reading them all. And your photo poem made me smile 🙂

  3. Looks great! Thanks for celebrating the course in this way. And for opening up your space to your poet friends.

  4. Enjoyed reading, made me recall some of the news stories that I’d pushed to the back of my mind, and I must admit news is a topic that I don’t often use when I’m writing poetry. Pleased you enjoyed the course.

    • Many thanks, Margaret. I hadn’t used news much before either. The course provided the proverbial supportive atmosphere and lots of different ideas/sparks for how to go at it. I found that the course helped me find (sometimes surprising to me) ways to include myself as a speaker/observer. I hope to do more news type poems – and am itching, for example, to use personas / dramatic monologues,… or ballads, yeah want to do more ballads … 🙂 …

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