From sick to snot: a typical Feedback Evening? – 9 February 2022

I can’t decide.

  • A mystery coach tour?
  • An eclectic restaurant’s taster menu?
  • A classic bag of Woolie’s Pick n Mix?
  • A curious parcel plucked from a bran tub? (Do they still have those at summer fairs or jamborees nowadays?)
  • A literary pot-pourri?

An evening spent at a Feedback Evening can be any or all of these, all at once, no matter who appears on the screen. And last night was no exception.

From disrupted lyrics to high-rise memoir, from poetic nature musings to fibs in verse, from a fond farewell to the lurid details of the morning after the night before. The sheer shared variety revealed all sorts of lessons and potential inspiration from which we can all benefit, whatever style or genre we pursue.

Tony’s Twisted Lyrics. No, that’s not an indication of his state of mind but a glimpse at a source of inspiration. His rendition of Goodbye Pinball Wizard showed that disrupting a classic song can make for great material. After running through a list of word games, he declared that he “must have played them all,” before leading us through the tortured rhymes of “muddle,” and “hurdle,” to, yes, you’ve guessed it, WORDLE. Make a connection, touch a nerve: he certainly caught the moment.

Jean’s encounter with starlings prompted us to look from another being’s perspective. Each Day is a Story was a poem that had us pondering how these birds marked a season’s change and their understanding of place. From their surroundings they know “news of where to land, where to be when the seed falls.” In another poem, Place, she wove together the passage of time with landscape in a “vast land of past and present scenes,” where “shadows cast reminders of what may be revealed.” Robbie The Terror made a brief canine cameo appearance and I suspect many are envious of the inspirational surroundings she must experience over on Coll.

If you want to transport your reader to a scene, immerse them in the detail, make them share experience. As the Prologue to a story once called Into the Parallel, Carey conveyed all the sordid images neither we nor our parents wanted to know when two girls wake after a vodka-fuelled binge. Her writing showed blurred thoughts gradually coming into focus – bed, bin, bathroom – and the reality of the world being pushed aside, until … We’ll just have to wait for more.

Maggie B was the sorbet to cleanse our palates. She self-deprecatingly calls it doggerel, but none of us could deny the skill with which she had created A Bad Riddle and The Green Menace. These two poems for children were short, punchy and with plenty of scope for illustration. In the former we were led through a nature lesson with acorns, berries and conkers before being presented with a lesson in truth and honesty. In the latter we followed a mysterious messy trail before a sneeze brought it to a cringing close.

Memoir followed the break, which we spent searching for the mess left behind by Maggie’s sneeze.

First, I said “goodbye” to an old and faithful piece of equipment. Bought in pre-decimalisation days and superseded by today’s technological gizmos, memories of an old compass recalled early days when navigational skills were developed on the living room carpet and in the back garden. Discussing possible places where such a piece would be placed, we mourned the passing of Scottish Memories, the home of so many short memoir pieces of just a few hundred words.

From the wild outdoors to the thoroughly urban, Marion then took us from Govan to the high-rise blocks of Priesthill in the early part of a fledgling memoir. After sharing glimpses of the community left behind, we started to learn how a family tried to adjust to life on the top floor, with a view of twinkly lights and the Campsies. We encouraged more snippets of detail to fix the piece in time and connect with readers. Marion’s Formica-topped tables and Petula Clark singing Downtown were joined by familiar street names and even the 48 bus. Combining personal memoir, social history and an exploration of the psychological effect of moving people in such a way, prompted lots of advice and ideas.

Damaris brought the evening to a close with two further poetic contributions. Insect Rescue played with the image of a butterfly lifted from the water of a swimming pool and experiencing floral confusion on a patterned dress. Could she detect gratitude in its response? Finally, the imagery in Collector of Places had us appreciative of the way in which the power and effect of wind was described and pondering on the questions or thoughts it left us with. We even suggested swapping lines at the end, which, in Damaris’ words, has given me the perfect way to end:

“It is end and beginning and everything in between.”

Nigel Ward


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