Write with Rupi

On Friday evening 9,000 people tuned into Rupi Kaur’s IG Live for a writing workshop.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was so engaged that the hour whizzed by; possibly the fastest hour of the week in quarantine.

There were moments I found myself feeling emotional about the workshop; with the virus impacting everyone’s lives, to have almost 10,000 people from around the world tuning in and doing the same exercise simultaneously was quite amazing and very heartwarming.

We started with a Stream of Consciousness activity; to use this prompt and write for six minutes:

If you were to write the story of your life until now, what would the title be and why?

Then Rupi shared the differences between ‘spoken-word poetry’ and what she calls ‘paper poetry’.  Spoken-word poetry is performance poetry and it comes to life on the stage.  Often, it’s longer poems that lend themselves to performances.  Paper poetry comes to life on paper: the design, line spacing and font all help to push the emotion, emphasis and message of the poem forward.

So it came as no surprise that she then guided us through writing a spoken word poem.

Working through the stanzas sequentially, Rupi gave us prompts to start each paragraph.  She explained what message we needed to convey in each section and gave us a few minutes to write each stanza before moving onto the next.

To start, we had to name something with which we’re struggling.  Some people said alcoholism, depression, COVID-19, uncertainty or losing a loved one, I wrote ‘getting to my career goal’.  We then found out this was to be our title.

In stanza 1, we had to start with ‘We met’ and describe the struggle without naming it.

In stanza 2, we had to start with ‘And here you are’ and add imagery to the struggle – still without naming it.

In stanza 3, we needed to get to the action of the poem.  To start this stanza, we needed to name the thing and by doing so take away its power.

Stanza 4 was the ‘takedown paragraph’.  In ‘juicy detail’ we needed to describe how we’re going to ‘kick this thing’s ass [arse]’.  So far, we’ve been telling the story and weaving a story for our readers.  In stanza 4, we were to resolve the issue.  Up close, we see the thing isn’t so scary after all.

Stanza 5 is the conclusion paragraph; to write how it feels now we’ve won.

After writing, Rupi could connect to some people’s phones and they could share their poems.  This was wonderful.  All the women who shared their poems wrote beautifully and all seemed shocked to appear live on the video.

I’d like to share both the unedited and edited version of my poem to show how editing is often necessary to sharpen up a piece of writing.  (Be kind; I wrote this in about 20 minutes and on-demand – I usually wait for inspiration and emotion to write.)

The unedited version of my poem:

We met in a book.

Caressing the words and

flirting with the pages and

cheating with my pen.

 

And here you are,

within reach but a bit too far.

Your redness increases in intensity,

a calmer pink when I’m focused and writing

and an angry red when I’m mapping curriculums.

You flirt back, teasing me with your beauty.  And I’m here, hoping we’ll meet soon.

 

Getting to my career goal is like a teasing bully on the playground.  But you only tease me out of your own vulnerabilities?  You don’t see the power I have within me.  You can’t see what I’m about to become.

 

And so, my quiet strength I hold inside myself will rise up like a phoenix.

We’ll hold our hands up to you and type, type, type

away your weaknesses and write the narrative of my strengths.

 

Now the playground battle’s won,

I can stride back into that classroom with my head held high and my fingers twitching.

With a book in my hand and a pen behind my ear, I stride out of the school gates and I’m ready to take on the world.

On reading the poem back, I notice it isn’t in my usual style.  It’s more dramatic than I usually opt for (a favourite of my poems is here) – I wonder if I was subconsciously influenced by Rupi Kaur’s dramatic storytelling style.

 

The edited version of my poem:

We met in a book.

Caressing the words, and

flirting with the pages and

cheating with my pen.

 

And here you are,

within reach but a bit too far not close enough.

Your redness increases in intensity,;

a calmer pink when I’m focused and writing,

and an angry a fiery red when I’m mapping curriculums.

You flirt back, teasing me with your beauty.//

And I’m here, hoping we’ll meet soon.

 

Getting to my career goal is like a teasing taunting bully on the playground.//

But you only tease me out of your own vulnerabilities? insecurities.//

You don’t see the power strength I have within me.//

You can’t see what I’m about determined to become.

 

And so, my this quiet strength I hold inside myself will rise up like a phoenix.

We’ll hold put our hands up to you and type, type, type

away your weaknesses and write the narrative of my strengths determination.

 

Now the playground battle’s won,

I can stride back into that classroom with my head held high//

and my fingers twitching.

With a book in my hand and a pen behind my ear,//

I stride out of the school gates, and I’m ready to take on the world.

The final activity was a Word Map.  Writing the word ‘sex’ in the middle, we had to create a spider-diagram of every word that comes to mind in relation to sex.  I was pleased with my word map, confident I had lots of material for the next poem we were to create.  But Rupi had a trick up her sleeve: we had five minutes to write about sex but we weren’t allowed to use any of the words in the mindmap.  This was tough but it forced us to think of new ways to describe the theme of sex (a good way to develop your writing).

I left the IG Live video beaming.  To have one of my writing heroes just the other side of the screen, taking time to mentor aspiring writers was magical.  I hope she runs another workshop next week.

 

 

 

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. emcmyoga says:

    Owen powerful holly. Amazing to hear your experience x

    Liked by 1 person

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