Tuesday, 17 January 2012


Blackpool is famous for its electric illuminations, but illuminations can also be moments of insight, or great clarity. They often come from crisis, but can also arrive more gently, simply through meeting people.

A poem touched that on the nature of this kind of illumination was written during our first workshops for A Winter Garden, poetry/art sessions at Blackpool Central Library. These first writing sessions have produced several poems, including this one below, co-written by eleven people as a group piece in the afternoon workshop.



love is light
too long away
loneliness is eternity;
or perhaps

the colour of love is black?
- passionate, intense, a faraway sun
orange and yellow circle

is a sweet with a chewy centre
a locked box
it stops you in

sky blue comfort
at the bottom of the ocean
relaxed and

I’m having a lovely day
feel far
as the


angel’s wings are the weight of love
look at a person’s face to
read emotional

a closed book
in a different
algo maravilloso

red: love is life
I love being on my own
claret is the colour of happiness

a vibrant yellow
makes me
a bird in the wind that flies

el amor
feels a million miles away
the hand of time
moves slow when you leave


love can be fear
yet people are infinitely far
til they find time
fast and sparking.

Group poem
11 January 2011

A Winter Garden is a writing and art project, led by poet Philip Davenport and book artist Emily Speed. Over the 10 weeks of the project, participants will crossover writing about their hometown Blackpool with writing about the self. Participants have been referred to the group because of problems with isolation and depression.

The morning session was a delicate, tiptoe start with a small group. I was nervous, starting in on uneasy ground, but needn’t have worried. The participants put themselves wholeheartedly into the writing exercises, making pieces that were brave and self-revealing. The session was quiet, studious; each writer in their own bubble. They worked beautifully as individuals, but I wished that they would also come together as a group to spark new energy. We might try bringing the group down to the cafĂ© at the end of the sessions so that there’s an opportunity for people to gather less formally and start to bond.

The afternoon arrived by way of complete contrast with a large band of participants – people shared ideas, sympathies, jokes. The room was a-buzz and it was hard to quieten them enough to get focus.

After an exercise based on John Cage’s 4’33, writing into silence, we wet into the toughest piece of the day, writing directly about the mist powerful emotional states – love, loneliness, happiness. It was made as a group piece; once each line was written, the page was passed onto the next person, making for changes in tone and stance of the poem, which became a prismatic folding in of viewpoints. The piece was full of bright images, sharply-felt, like strung jewels. It’s called illuminations – named for Blackpool and for the poet Arthur Rimbaud.

For all of the participants, writing came at the cost of a great deal of emotional energy. Sometimes writing like this will slide into difficult terrain; it’s a risk, but there’s much to be gained – insight, release, connection with others - in fact, moments of illumination.

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