Whipple Creative Writing Workshop Contributions

Here are some further contributions from workshop participants…

From Immy, aged 10, the youngest participant in our Creative Writing Workshop.

Immy bravely serenaded us with a lovely song about the ship-shaped sundial, and then impressed us further by reading us a story, ‘The Globe of Puzzles,’ about the jigsaw-puzzle globe. Her contributions are below.

Thank you, Immy!


The Sundial Song

I’ve felt the summer sun

Felt the leaves a falling

Seen the world in winter

Seen the darkest night

I’ve been everywhere on the earth but not in Heaven



The Globe of Puzzles

by Immy age 10

A boy called Joe who was 8 years old walked down an abandoned mine tunnel.  He walked down the tunnel and found a dead end; he saw on a rock shelf a globe that was made of lots of pieces to put together.  He was amazed by the varied colours and the great countries that covered the earth, so he put it together and a voice said in his head how to live forever…….



From a few of our (adult) participants:

Alex wrote about the ship-shaped sundial as well. I especially love how Alex read about the history of the sundial on the website and worked that into the poem, whilst also taking an imaginative leap from that information into the unknown:


Samuel’s sixteenth ship sundial

The man took the ship in the palm of his hand

A beam of light fell on the brassy shape

Telling the time, spelling the state of the day.

Almost 450 year ago Samuel Fox took up his

Instruments, finely sharp and carefully kept

And engraved his initials SF on his sixteenth ship sundial

Ordered by a doctor in Plymouth who wished

He’d gone to sea as a boy.

Who lived in a tall house on the Hoe looking south

Who liked to use arithmetic to sharpen his wits

Who walked with a limp,

Who coughed on damp days.

He would need spectacles to see the fine lines

That Samuel engraved in his workshop in Greenwich

Watched by his apprentice Tom.

The doctor would keep his sundial in a velvet bag

Drawn up by a silken cord. Kept in the third drawer down

On the left of his desk looking out over the water.

Each of Samuel’s ship sundials was slightly different

This one – a chubby shape, with a stocky mast –

Would sail through centuries, lost in a sea of

Where next, what next?

Snug in its high and dry, safe and sound place.



Here is a piece from Simon, who wrote about the puzzle globe (and also gave excellently evocative readings of this and our gold coin example):


The world puzzle

The world was split: brutally, along lines of latitude and radii that ran through the Earth’s core. It lay, set out, upon the table, a dissected planet. The divisions ran sharply across continents and oceans,  cuts of a geometrical sphere that ignored geography and tore over the structures of the Earth’s surface. 

Somehow, gradually, the detail began to creep inside. Line-tendrils from the surface began to snake into the interior, crawling across the blank surfaces of the raw partitions.  Slowly, with muted colours resembling those of lichen, the confusions of the surface crept into the Earth’s interior. A great elephant appeared at the Earth’s core. From America, a vast tree grew into the interior, and on it sat a Native American, talking to a monkey. Last of all, the writing appeared, fitting between the spidery pictures and explaining them. The barren Earth was filled with vegetation, people, and descriptions; the puzzle had solved itself.



Thank you everyone for your contributions! Most impressive!

Literary Events at the Whipple: Poetry Workshop

On Thursday 29 October, the Whipple held its first creative writing workshop. Led by Katy Price, Melanie Keene and myself, the group of twelve explored ‘object stories,’ inspired by some beautiful and fascinating museum objects.

Discussing poems in the workshop

Many thanks to Sarah, Melanie, Katy & Steve for their workshop contributions!

We began by reading and discussing a few examples of short writing inspired by specific objects, and the different ways of describing or interpreting their stories.

Next, workshop guests were asked to consider one of three objects from the Whipple Collection, which were displayed specially on a central table within the circle of chairs.

A ‘Jigsaw Puzzle’ Globe, a Model mulberry, and a Ship-Shaped Sundial.

jigsaw globe
Jigsaw Puzzle Globe (photo: Whipple Collection)

After some discussion, we allowed for about 40 minutes of thinking and writing. A small amount of information was displayed beside each object, and if they wanted, the writers were able to access the further information on the Whipple website.

Once we had deliberated, chatted, written, crossed out, and considered, everyone bravely volunteered to share their work, either by reading out what they had written, or by explaining their thoughts and ideas as to what they wanted to do with the material.

There was a brilliant array of voice and creative imagery. Everyone seemed to come up with rich and interesting material, and they were invited to share their poems with me so I could post them on this blog, and possibly beside the museum objects themselves.

Model Mulberry (photo: Whipple Collection)

Daniel, co-coordinator of the Science and Literature Reading Group in the HPS department and workshop attendee, generously sent me his wonderful poem about the model mulberry:

MURE (Morus nigra, L.)
A smooth shiny base, turned like a chess piece,
Is the stage where this mulberry dances
A sumptuous papier-mâché fruit
Seducing us with sugary glances
Her stalk is set at a jaunty angle
Clothed in long stripes of dark green and lime green
The dark spots run through it like Brighton rock
Above it the bulbous fruit reposes
Dark red and black, exploding with sugar
Labels revealing the inner contents
Of the graine ouvertepéricarpe osseux,
The embryou lodged in its secret heart.
Daniel Friesner
Daniel and John with the workshop objects
Below are a few of the examples we read and discussed before launching into writing our own material:

The Turnip-Snedder by Seamus Heaney

Next, we looked at an excerpt, read brilliantly (with feeling!) by Simon: from Orhan Panuk, My Name is Red (faber and faber, 2001), pp. 124-125.

Chapter 19

I am a gold coin

Behold! I am a twenty-two-carat Ottoman Sultani gold coin and I bear the glorious insignia of His Excellency Our Sultan, Refuge of the World. Here, in the middle of the night in this fine coffee-house overcome with funereal melancholy, Stork, one of Our Sultan’s great masters, has just finished drawing my picture, though he hasn’t yet been able the embellish me with gold wash – I’ll leave that to your imagination. My image is here before you, yet I myself can be found in the money purse of your dear brother, Stork, that illustrious miniaturist… Hello, hello, greetings to all the master artists and assorted guests. Your eyes widen as you behold my glimmer, you thrill as I shimmer in the light of the oil lamp, and finally, you bristle with envy at my owner, Master Stork. …

… I take pride in being recognised as a measure of talent among artists and in putting an end to unnecessary disagreements. …

            Before I arrived here, I spent ten days in the dirty sock of a poor shoe-maker’s apprentice. Each night the unfortunate man would fall asleep in his bed, naming the endless things he could buy with me. The lines of this epic poem, sweet as a lullaby, proved to me that there was no place on Earth a coin couldn’t go.

            Which reminds me. If I recited all that happened to me before I came here, it’d fill volumes. There are no strangers among us, we’re all friends; as long as you promise not to tell anyone, and as long as Stork Effendi won’t take offense, I’ll tell you a secret. Do you swear not to tell?

            All right then, I confess. I’m not a genuine twenty-two-carat Ottoman Sultani gold coin minted at the Chemberlitash Mint. I’m counterfeit. They made me in Venice using adulterated gold and brought me here, passing me off as twenty-two-carat Ottoman gold. Your sympathy and understanding are much obliged. …

Later in the workshop, we had a great discussion about the poem The Still Lives of Appliances by Rebecca Elson.