Monday, 3 November 2014

Offa's Press Poetry Day

On Saturday 11th October, three of our members - Kuli, Roma and Cherry - attended a poetry workshop and walking day run by West Midlands-based publisher, Offa's Press.

We set off up the A5 for Pant, a village just outside of Oswestry in Shopshire. Unfortunately there was a broken bridge after we’d turned off the main road, so we had to take a short diversion across the border to Wales! But we were only in Wales for a few yards before we saw the ‘Welcome to England’ sign again!

We arrived at Pant village hall and made ourselves comfortable over tea and biscuits. Once all were present and accounted for, we began the first workshop. The theme of the day was ‘work.’

First, we examined poetry about different aspects of work, by such poets as Seamus Heaney and Maya Angelou. They ranged from paid work to housework and used work in different ways. We then did an exercise discussing our best and worst jobs, and knuckled down to write some poetry about work. It was interesting to hear the kinds of jobs people had done throughout their lives.

The threat of rain had cleared so we set off for a walk over nearby Llanymynech Rocks. We wound our way up the hillside, meeting some new personalities along the way!

On the ascent

New friends

Llanymynech Rocks is the site of some old lime kilns, where fertiliser was created by burning limestone quarried from the rock face. We passed by the kilns and the pits before heading up to see the quarry area. There is a lot of remaining evidence of the work which once took place there, including intact railway tracks and metal figures of the workers.

Metal statue of a worker

We settled down for lunch by the large, stripy rock face, where we were joined by some woolly friends! They stole the show as we all marvelled at their black fleeces and friendly demeanour. They live on a nearby farm and are let into the reserve to eat tough plants during winter, allowing wildflowers to flourish in the spring.

Picnic time!

Sheep scaling the dramatic rocks

After lunch we made our way back down the hill, ruminating on the industry which once bloomed there and how it affected the whole community. We arrived back at the village hall for our second workshop of the day, writing poetry which reflected the signs of work we had examined during the walk. It started to rain just as we got inside – what good timing!

There was a brief interlude before we were all due to meet at the local pub for our evening meal, and the three of us were invited my the manager of Offa’s Press, Simon Fletcher, to have a tea and cake break at his house, which was just down the road! We had a pleasant time discussing the day, Offa’s Press and writing in general, as well as admiring all of the artefacts Simon has collected over the years!

We met in the local pub and had a relaxed evening meal, before each having the chance to perform our poetry. Some people performed poetry they’d written during the day, and some had brought poems they’d already written on the theme of ‘work.’

Our girls enjoying the pub meal
For the finale of the evening, we were joined by Offa’s Press poet Dave Reeves, who entertained us with melodic renditions of his West Mids-dialect poetry, accompanied by his harmonica and squeeze-box!

As the night drew to a close we said our goodbyes and set off back through the darkness and fog of the winding Shropshire lanes! Roma entertained us with ghost stories as we laughed about the highs of the day.

All three of us had a wonderful day, and highly recommend going along when Offa’s Press set up their spring workshop.

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