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