I was there for an hour and a half. I spent the first half of the session mainly encouraging them to talk about some of the issues that inhibit people from putting words down. For example, if you are in a bad place (and all of them were in different ways) does it help to externalise these feelings onto the page, and/or to share them? Or do you prefer to move to happier feelings through words? Does self-censorship stop you from putting words down, or make you cross them out as soon as they are there? I was worried that people would not respond to these kinds of questions, but each one resulted in lively discussion. Oh, yes, I talked about imagery and how an object or a sound or something can have emotional connections. One woman later write about the colour yellow, and a dress she wore when she was six, that made her feel like a princess, and which was spoiled.
Many of the women had been in prison and they spoke about how poetry is composed and shared in prison, verbally or on paper, for instance rhyming riddles. I said that reminded me of the Anglo-Saxons. I told them about the riddle about the onion:
I am a strange creature, for I satisfy women . . .
I grow very tall, erect in a bed.
I'm hairy underneath. From time to time
A beautiful girl, the brave daughter
Of some fellow dares to hold me
Grips my reddish skin, robs me of my head
And puts me in the pantry. At once that girl
With plaited hair who has confined me
Remembers our meeting. Her eye waters.
(I didn't remember the whole thing, but it made them laugh, especially with hand movements)
Anyway, we finished by all writing some poetry. I didn't manage to write a single word, but luckily nobody noticed, and everyone read them out. I honestly think anyone would have been touched to hear them.