A New Year’s Gift for anyone who’d like a moment off

Just planning my first writing class of the year – there’s something about the lovely energy of the writing group – I am really looking forward to it and finding it difficult to articulate exactly why it lifts my spirits just to think about meeting up with these students in a few hours.

The answer must lie somewhere in the creative exchange; in the fact that they have signed up, and are showing up, with their talent, some writing that they’ve done over the holiday, with their enthusiasm and kindness for each other. It’s an oasis in the week.

Then even better, I searched old files from my University teaching days and came across a really wonderful ice-breaker exercise for the class today. It’s great to do with a friend, but fine to do on your own, and I think perhaps useful to try out at this time of year, as it’ll help with reflection on past events and future plans.

Part of the exercise imagines you have someone to work with – but it can be adapted. This includes two wonderful poems.

Warm –up exercises, Jan 13, 2020                                                  Cube Writers Spring 2020

Introduce yourself to your neighbour. Ask them a couple of questions about their name, goals, writing habits. Read out your introduction to your partner within your group.


Questions for ideas/ brain storm ‘I come From’ poem exercise; see further instructions below.

A good start can be an old photo album – Mr Snowdon is my great-grandfather, who died of T; Phyliss is my grandmother, his daughter, and the young girl is my mother.
Assorted pictures from my parent’s photo album – I come from a father who loved rock climbing, parents initially skinny from war-time rationing, with a love of the Lake District and adventure. Family albums can be a great resource for this exercise.

        What does your name mean/ come from?

       Do you like it?

       What was your ‘child’ or ‘baby’ name?

       A significant number?

       A smell that means something?

       What can’t you stand or what ‘freaks you out’?

            Which consumer item have you taken into your own identity?

            If you drew a pie-chart of your day, what would be a surprising      segment?

            What has been the best advice given to you?

            Food you hated as a child, food you loved…

            Name one of your best qualities.

            A significant place.

            Name a toy you wished for, but never got.

            What do you believe in?

            Which word do you overuse?

            A recent lie? 

What’s your favourite smell?

            What do you really not like?

            What’s your favourite place to be?

            As a child,what did you want to be when you grew up?

            Do you still want it?

            What kind of music drives you mad?

            What was your favourite music/ band when you were little?

            Where would your family go on a day out?

            If you were asked by the CIA to adopt a new identity, what would you choose?

            If you could choose anywhere in the world to sit and read a good   book where would it be?

            Write 3 or 4 books that have meaning for you…

A memory of a grandparent or someone elderly who meant something to you…..detail…smell of tobacco, soft skin for eg.

            What question do you wish you had been asked?

            And your answer?

            3 things about YOU that are hidden, that you don’t mind    sharing….eg a habit, can play an instrument, etc

Bread and Butter by Jo Roach

I come from women called Mrs Ashforth, Mrs Draper,

broken biscuits, cracked eggs, Co-op divi, provident cheques,

bomb ruins, Tin Tan Tommy,

a longing for an older brother’s Gresham Flyer,

from Dolly Wheeler wearing her apron

in a photo of the Coronation party.

I come from looney bins and whalebone corsets,

hysterectomies, the change, varicose veins.

I come from Parky riding his bike

to lock the gates for the night,

a waltz at the bandstand,

reading the tea leaves,

the bearded lady at the fairground.

I come from the kitchens of women,

owners of preserving pans and garden fences.

I come from land lost in a hand of cards.

I come from girls who had no schooling.

I come from the deaths of Holy Martyrs.

I come from women married to men

who laboured in a country they didn’t call home.

Writing Task 2: Write a Poem

A  list poem called either ‘I Come From’ or ‘7 things you probably don’t know about me’ .

Make sure you include some ‘proper nouns’ eg if you liked biscuits what kind of biscuits…Crunch Creams, Wagon Wheels etc

And keep your most powerful line for the last line. ( this could be funny, shocking, poignant?)

Writing Task 3: Try writing a poem using the poem below as a template.

My Father

 by Yehuda Amichai

The memory of my father is wrapped up in
white paper, like sandwiches taken for a day at work.

Just as a magician takes towers and rabbits
out of his hat, he drew love from his small body,

and the rivers of his hands
overflowed with good deeds.

Write a  poem, short and sweet…copying the form of the Amichai poem above…3 couplets and describing a memory of a family member or close