“Poetry is when life pats you on the back.” – Tiro Sebina
A few days ago I stumbled across a Facebook post advertising a poetry workshop by Badilisha Poetry X-Change. My friend Dee and I decided to attend it. We had no idea what to expect but since we’re both logophiles we figured that we had nothing to lose. The workshop was all shades of amazing so I just had to write about it and share what I picked up. I left the workshop with so many lessons but I will limit this post to the general ones. The more specific tips on things like what makes a good poem, how to identify a good title and so on can be discussed in another post, on request… 🙂
There were two facilitators for the workshop, acclaimed poet TJ Dema and Mr Tiro Sebina who is a writer and a lecturer at the University of Botswana. Roughly 30 people of varying ages participated. Now I knew we would have to take part in some sort of icebreaker exercise when introducing ourselves but my people, I was not ready for the form the exercise took! Lol. We were asked to close our eyes, then come up with a movement that embodies our name and identify a word that both describes us and begins with the alphabet that our first names begin with. Then we were to introduce ourselves by making the motion and saying out the descriptive word together our first name.
See, my official name starts with an “o”. I thought long and hard but I could not think of any positive adjective that starts with the letter “o”. I silently thanked God for the fact that I had so many names and I sharply decided to adopt the name Grace, (a lot of people refer to me as Grace and only a few are aware that it is not one of my official names). Things went smoothly from that point on. 🙂
With introductions out of the way, we were taken through a couple of other fun and thought-provoking exercises. At the end of that session, we had all loosened up and we knew some interesting facts about each other. We then tackled every writer’s fear – the dreaded “writer’s block”. TJ was very quick to dispel the myth that one should only write when they feel inspired. She pointed out that a poet is not called to transcribe what some god of poetry has decided to reveal to him or her. We are to develop a routine that works and stick to it, inspired or not. I think this principle applies across all fields. We must all do what we have to do and when we have to do it, regardless of whether we feel like it or not. After all, excellence is developed through consistency and perseverance.
We also discussed the iceberg philosophy which essentially says that most of a poet’s work is done off stage, and I would say “off paper” for those who don’t recite. So 90% of the work consists of reading, observing, editing, learning, building vocabulary and developing structure, among other things. The 10% is the readily visible aspect of speaking, reciting, writing and tweeting. LOL. Once again I think this is true across board. We must build our relationship with God in private to win in the christian race.
Mr Sebina empahsised the need to cultivate “patience that cannot be conquered by anything”. He told us how skill must be protected, nourished and watered. (And again I say this goes for our faith too) 🙂 TJ also mentioned how one must know and master the techniques of writing poetry before attempting to break them or work around them. Curiosity was encouraged, because as Mr Sebina said, the whole point of poetry is to teach and to delight. One thing that hit home big time for me is the NEED to read and be well informed on various issues. It is impossible to address any topic in depth if one is not well read. So starting now, I’m getting my reading game back on track.
I could go on and on but I’ll end by saying the four hours spent at the workshop this morning was a good investment of my time. The lessons I left with were about much more than poetry.The snacks and conversation at tea time were delicious too. (Yes, conversation can be delicious 🙂 ). I took some pictures during the workshop but they didn’t turn out well so I decided to leave them out. I’ll sign off with the verse below, it kept ringing in my mind throughout the workshop:
Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men. – Proverbs 22:29
Blessings y’al. 🙂