On Thursday 23rd July I ran a writing workshop in Walsall Arboretum as part of the Walsall Town Festival. The workshop was held in the morning and in the afternoon we went to the Bakehouse in Walsall for lunch and writing up the work, which was then performed by the writers. It’s risky attempting that kind of write-edit-perform in a day activity but in this case it worked well and resulted in some very good work. You can read a few of the pieces below and, hopefully, more will be added later.
by Nina Lewis
We take a walk around the lake.
I stare at the water from some distance
protected from the edge by plant-life.
The water is deep and faceless,
no-one knows the measure.
It is too dark to see the next inch down,
more black than brown.
Lake water takes me inside myself, sets my mind
to darker matter.
Like a ferocious animal, in suspended stillness
the water waits for opportunity to pounce,
all claws, teeth and current.
The desire to move towards it, tame it, join it,
strong. Just a toe, a dip, a foot.
I imagine, skin testing theory,
feel the tug of demons below the surface
pulling me down, pulling me in.
I take a step back,
stare at the ripples mimicking a gentle mass.
I know better, the bowl is hidden,
an enormous quarry, limestone graveyard.
My breath is stolen just by looking,
dark waters beckon.
I muster strength to resist,
ground myself in concrete,.
That black smile persists,
Invites me ̶ to make as one.
Drift, drown. Live.
By Janet Jenkins
THE SCULPTED SNAKE SPEAKS
What can I say?
Today and for some time I’ve been squashed
into this sculpture and placed
on a rocky outcrop in Walsall.
Should I be flattered?
Chosen by, I don’t know who, to be carved
and put on view to passing and pausing folk?
Some admire me; others think I’m a joke
and want to climb on me
despite the warning signs.
I hear them guessing
who else has been sculpted.
It seems to be a fish of some kind
and I’m relieved it isn’t real;
I wouldn’t wish
to have a live, pungent creature
tangled up with me for even one second.
I need to stay strong,
this is where I belong for now,
but I’m keeping my eye on you all
and beware, I might escape one day;
glide into your bag, or better still
up your trouser leg….. And hear you
Sinister faced swans stare into nothing,
bobbing and bored they wait side by side,
until people climb in chatting, laughing,
pedaling away with a sense of pride.
It’s said that these giant creatures
are frightening the genuine birds,
or is it a breed more powerful?
There’s another story I‘ve heard
saying Liz and Phil sent their servants
one night to this Walsall lake,
they snuck away with her special birds,
to the palace, to roast and bake.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE ARBORETUM MASQUE
By Andy Summers
This should have been easy
A walk in the park.
Out and about
In the green and blue
A trap is sprung
At first – surprise,
Then in a heartbeat, dull, beneath.
The second – shock
Pulse touching nerve,
Expectation turned on its head.
There, the tendrils of ageless ferns
The wooden bones of the moment.
In this forbidding avenue
Shard and branch
The course bark on each twisted spine!
Truth dawns, creeps in,
Invades the anticipation,
Silences that previous, joyous certainty,
Breaks boughs with its cold stare,
Reminding that All Life is Here.
Beauty battles it out
With this beast,
This sprawl of sinew, vein and artery,
Pathways fading into the far distance,
Draining the town
As its people gasp for air.
Arboretum – jewel in this urban crown
Flatters and deceives
Promising light relief,
A brass plaque on a park bench.
A hard place
A painted floating decoy
A bitter image of escape
A gate slammed shut.
So, that breath of fresh air
In a cloud of the real world
The trap closes
Its perfect deception complete. A beautiful beast.