Writing With Joanne Fedler

Recently I stumbled across a 7-day writing course run by Joanne. I’m on school holidays, it was free; it was meant to be.

The 7 days were titled:

1. Dream writing

2. Keep random lists

3. Change places

4. The fire of feeling

5. The power of AND

6. Reflection, connecting the dots, finding my voice

7. Everyone is a winner

Each day, Joanne would post a video introducing the concept and then there would be a downloadable prompt designed to get the creative machine in gear. Once completed, many people would share their pieces in a private Facebook group.

But people shared more than their scribblings. They shared their stories – stories of time spent ignoring their memories and feelings, stories of accomplishment and achievement, stories of struggles and of great joy.

For me, I started on Day 1 writing a nightmare scenario that was clearly influenced by the book I’d most recently read (The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor). Day 2, I wrote this:

On the third day I wrote a letter to my mouth and wrote a reply from its perspective.

On Day 4 I wrote about the guilt that I felt when I accidentally hurt my son – we were in a car park and a car was coming, I yanked him in to my arms and the buttons on my shirt scratched his face. It was an accident but I was angry and I cannot shake the shame. On Day 5 I wrote about how I read and respond to other people’s emotions better than I do my own. These two days then influenced Day 6 when I wrote this:

Day 7 is interesting because, depending on how you look at it, it either has the least amount of work to do or the most. Technically there is no prompt specific to this day so there is absolutely no required writing BUT the completion of a form provides a link to an extensive bank of prompts which will keep any writer going for a long time. Here’s one of them:

Anyway, in the Facebook group many people are writing their praise for Joanne, her support crew and the other writers who have engaged in the process. Me, I’m writing this. It’s a review of sorts or simply an explanation of what I’ve been doing this past week.

Jo actually messaged me during the course. She’d seen one of my posts included above and a little cyber stalking revealed that I’m an established poet. She asked, as is natural, what interest I had in her course which is geared more at people closer to the start of their creative journey. I replied that I’m interested in branching into other forms of writing but also that I’m just happy to be engaged in something that has me writing every day (I think what I really need is a personal trainer of sorts, one that is focussed on keeping my pen moving). Beyond that, I really like the two poems that I wrote and have included here. I honestly believe that I would never have written them if I hadn’t taken part in this writing challenge.

If you’re a writer, beginning or otherwise, I’d definitely encourage finding Jo on Facebook and keeping an eye out for when she runs something like this again.

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Toxic Masculinity in Poetry

Working in education, you only have to open your eyes in order to see the gender imbalance that exists in this industry. As part of the superstructure it is also assumed that the same distribution of power exists in other industries, a fact that is mirrored in the pay gap that still exists in a number of vocations.

In schools, the teaching staff is dominated by women while men seem to seek and succeed in earning positions as heads of department, deputies and principals. This creates a “boy’s club” mentality at top level. Interestingly, something I read last year said that a woman trying to integrate herself into this environment will often adopt a persona that is hyper-sexual.

But, I digress.

It is the boy’s club mentality and the notion that men can get away with disgusting behaviour because it’s accepted that “boys will be boys” that I find myself coming back to repeatedly. Maybe it’s because I’m a father to a young boy I don’t want perpetuating those behaviours (and to a young girl I don’t want to be the victim of that mentality). Maybe it’s because, as a teacher, I’m in a nurturing role looking after hundreds of today’s youth. Maybe it’s because I used to be a dick and I’m trying to make up for the crap I got up to when I was younger.

Anyway, it is this theme of toxic masculinity that drew me in to Shane Cartledge’s chapbook/zine, The Man Place. As a disclaimer, Shane and I are part of a poetry group on Facebook and he put a call out asking if anyone would be happy to read his zine and write a few comments. As far as I know, Shane and I have never met so expect what I write below to be unbiased.

Firstly, I didn’t like every poem. But, are you meant to? I can’t think of a single collection of verse where I’ve enjoyed absolutely every poem.

What I did like is the variety. The zine opens and closes with a haiku, there’s a poem that looks like it’s a villanelle (and I’m too lazy to look up the form to confirm), and there’s a variety of free verse structures – including this one which is my personal favourite:

While this is my favourite full poem, the lines I keep coming back to are from another. “The Girl With the Ice Cream Eyes” has a neat little twist in the ‘zero fucks given’ ethos. It first appears as…

and comes back later as…

It reappears in that poem too but I don’t want to spoil it here. It’s a poem that gets pretty dark too. It’s unsettling, but that’s the whole point. The zine is described by its author as an unpacking of “the shortcomings and problems with masculinity” that includes “themes of sexual assault and sexual violence”.

That said, it’s not going to be your lighthearted holiday read that you digest while sipping cocktails by the pool. This is dark, bedroom poetry that you hide from under your doona, that you use like a razor blade to slice through your centuries old misconceptions.

It won’t be out until next month (I’ll post details in the comments when I get them) but, if you see this zine around, do yourself a favour and pick it up.

Oops, I did ink again

I solemnly swear that I thought I was done. In previous “Think Behind the Ink” posts I said as much but, as some people have pointed out, there’s something addictive about getting tattoos.

As is my wont, these new pieces have a particular meaning attached. They have a certain significance that may or may not be obvious when first viewed.

I’ll start with my ribs.

Very few people will see this piece because of its location (only those connected to reading/writing are visible in my work clothes). Some might assume that these birds represent freedom or achievement as is often the case with these animals as metaphors. It’s not the case with mine. These birds are an attempted murder and they represent the three Adelaide Crows premierships; the men’s team in 1997-1998 and the women’s in 2017.

I wanted something that wasn’t overt as I find some sporting tattoos to be quite naff. I also wanted something that could be added to over time. I’ll probably add colour at some point. I’d flirted with the idea of two shades of blue and a splodge of pink as a water colour background but I could also just incorporate the club’s colours. I figured that could be a decision for Later Ron. When the Crows win another grand final (or five 🤞) I can add more birds to the flock and think about colour then.

Now to the forearm.

I’d deliberated over the location of this one/these three and their potential impact on my employability. I decided that any school that doesn’t want their English teacher to have visible tattoos that stem from books is probably not a school I want to work at. On a simplistic level, the symbols come from authors I love – J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and Terry Pratchett – but each holds a significance beyond an appreciation of their origins.

Most people will recognise the Deathly Hallows (closest to the wrist) from the Harry Potter series. The symbol represents the invisibility cloak, the resurrection stone and the elder wand through the triangle, circle and vertical line respectively. The combination of these three objects makes one the master of death. Unfortunately, death and dying are frequent topics of conversation. A great number of people I care about appear to be attending funerals regularly, have lost their own lives or are battling age and ill-health. To have some control over life and death, then, is a fantasy I almost wish I could make reality.

The middle symbol is from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. It is ka, roughly synonymous with destiny or fate. Beyond that, ka “signifies life-force, consciousness, duty and destiny.” Now, I don’t necessarily believe in predestination but my personal philosophies align well with the notion that good and bad will happen to us at various points in our lives and that we will have little to no control over these events. However, we can control our reactions. Che sarà, sarà BUT it is up to us to determine if we will let those events define or control us.

The final symbol is the Summoning Dark from Terry Pratchett’s Thud. The Summoning Dark is a spirit of vengeance from dwarf mythology with a sign described as like “a floating eyeball with a curly tail”. For want of a better term, it ‘infects’ one of the characters and he realises that the more he relies on the Dark the more vulnerable he becomes to succumbing to his own ‘dark side’. For me, the tattoo is about internal struggles and self-reliance.

Maybe part of the appeal of tattoos is linked to insecurities and body image. Our bodies are a thing of great conjecture but, beyond that, they are ever changing. Perhaps tattoos are enticing because they give you an element of control, something you can be happy with despite whatever flaws you think you have.

Kickstarting my creativity: an update

This is a short post, nothing special.

In November I ran a Kickstarter campaign for their “Commissions” project. It was my first ever experience on the provider side of crowdsourcing.

I’d like to say a massive thanks to my friends for making the project a success, especially those who paid more than what their ‘reward tier’ required.

For those who didn’t see the original post, my Kickstarter campaign was poetry based. Basically, I’d write whatever people wanted me to write – they picked the topic, form and length.

It was cool to try something new and I loved hearing back from people about what they did with the poem and how they reacted to what I wrote.

Some of the feedback included:

“You bloody bugger you made me cry!!!!!!!

Thank you sooooo much”

“Oh my god it’s so good! I love the second stanza. It actually made me tear up a bit”

“I love it! Perfect 👌”

“It’s beautiful and I love it. 😊 AND I can’t believe how great the structure is! Sonnets are so strict 😂 I also love the last line”

“Can’t see it well in the photo but this is what I did with your poems you wrote for my sister. She really loves them Ron. She reads them over and over and admires how you put together my feeling about her into such beautiful words. Thanks again for doing the poems x”

And here’s what people did with their poems that were gifts for other people:

image

Again, I want to thank everyone that got involved for their support, encouragement and feedback. Much love 💙