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An Evening of Embodied Creativity with Em Strang – 9 November 2022

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Some people inspire by regaling us with their journey, their achievements and by describing the obstacles they’ve overcome. Others have inspired us by their simple eloquence and the ease with which they display their craft. And then there are those who exhort, challenge and persuade, often igniting a creative flame of which we’d been unaware.

But Em Strang’s modus operandi involved getting us to take our shoes off, walk around, and then move to the rhythm of some music, all while thinking about how our bodies felt and talking to one another about our favourite body parts. For a few minutes, we experienced at first hand that relationship between mind and body which, she assured us, would lead to freer expression.

My notes record the advice from Em that followed, with no explanation needed: “always include imperfection … incorporate the cracks … achieve a different kind of wholeness.”

As a group we then explored a poem Em presented to us – homage to my hips, by Lucille Clifton. Two different people read the same poem, their delivery varying in emphasis, tone and rhythm. Any reticence about poetic analysis in public soon disappeared. In no time at all we’d drawn out a multitude of themes and interpretations. The form on the page and lack of punctuation or capitalisation revealed more, leading Em to suggest that we try to embody the content of the poetry we write into the form of the piece itself.

By now we were ready to write and, looking back, I saw how all the movement, thinking and analysis that had filled the first hour, made us ready for the next.

Despite previously encouraging us to “incorporate the cracks” Em wanted us to create a Praise Poem about one part of our bodies.

What followed was the quietest, most productive, refreshment break I’ve ever known at the club. Heads were down, scratched or cupped pensively. While some stared at their hands or feet, others stretched or twisted, and the occasional pair of stockinged feet padded across to get a cup of tea.

Bums, hands, feet, ankles, eyes and hair all emerged from the scribbling silence, as did an unexpected plate of chips. Pride balanced imperfection, and it was punctured by humorously honest observation, as everyone (yes, everyone) shared their creativity to laughter and applause.

Em finally called on us all to explore our inner artist on a daily basis. “What’s your daily practice?” she asked. In addition to writing, she was pleased to hear that our activities range far and wide: cooking, gardening, photography – and she looked on in awe as one amongst us described the benefits derived from a daily hour of disco-dancing.

And so, the evening ended, with Em’s observation on her vision for the competition theme.

Vanishing Habitats

To be broadly interpreted. What has been lost in recent years – hedgehogs, wild country, our health, bees, rainforest, our youth, red squirrels, clean water, our sanity, turtledoves, ash trees, our human family & friends? How might our poems sing them back? 

I’m busy now musing on what that might be for me. What about you?

One last piece of advice – better make sure you are not wearing odd socks next week.

Nigel Ward

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