poetry space workshop six

Tuesday, 28 February 2017


This latest workshop has kindly been provided by my friend Moira Andrew.


We all have secrets hidden in hearts and memories.  Sometimes they are buried deep – and occasionally we don’t even realise they exist.  Secrets are the stuff of poetry.


Here are a few ideas to tickle your writers’ fingers and hopefully, get you started.


  • Secret haiku: (Three lines only, counting the syllables, 5 in the first line, 7 in the second and 5 in the final line.)  This is an exercise to get the creative juices flowing.  Try to hide a surprise in the last line.


  • A place to hide: Think of a secret place where, as a child, you liked to hide from the adults in your life.  Your hiding place may have been up a tree, behind the curtains, under the stairs.  I used to hide behind the water tank at the top of our tall house, a book secreted under my gym slip.


  • Secret society: When we were children, many of us were members of a secret group with its codes, its home-made badges, its hidden places where ‘meetings’ were held.


  • Secret gifts: Were you ever been given a gift (or a letter) from a secret admirer and tried to hide it?


  • Grandma’s cupboard: Again, a possible childhood memory.  Think of a cupboard or drawer which you were forbidden to open.  Did you ever do so?  (And what did you find?)  Or are you still wondering what was hidden there?


  • Secrets of the heart: Explore a secret known only to you.  This is your chance to write about it.


  • Family secrets: What was kept hidden from you?  Did you ever overhear adults talking in whispers about people you’ve never met, never knew existed?  Have you come across letters tied with ribbons, pressed flowers, old photographs, a rind never worn?


  • Secrets of the shore/sky/hills/mountains: Think of the secrets in nature – eg, ‘secrets known only to birds’, how they learn to to fly, build nests, find their way across the skies.  Or secrets of the seas, the shore, the hills  and so on.   The world is full of things we don’t  and can’t understand.


Search through these starter ideas.  Some might stir memories, make you feel sad or simply provide a way-in to a new piece of writing.   Explore and enjoy.


Moira Andrew, February 2017

The deadline to send these in to susan@poetryspace.co.uk was Monday 20th February.


Below you will find some poems that came in together with comments from Moira Andrew.

 Secret poems

 My secret

I glimpsed him with others,
a student in white,
Manhood emerging,
Face,eager and bright.
He was my secret,
some decades ago,
A seed that was planted,
just seemed to grow.
In that place and that time,
to love was taboo,
We lived by the rules,
For that’s what we knew.
Lives were arranged,
by caste and by creed,
the forecast of planets,
status and need.
But we broke the shackles
and left them behind,
The heart dictated,
and defied the mind.
In the chaos of cultures,
A secret no more,
Love took over and opened the door.


Leela Gautam


A delightful glimpse into the conventions of times past.  I like the use of the phrase, in the chaos of cultures.  However, I feel your use of rhyme might be holding you back.  Try to throw off the shackles of rhyme, explore a free-er style and see what emerges.  Perhaps try a comma in the final line to make it scan, Love took over, opened the door.  A good ending to a lovely piece of writing.



{Flash-mob Haiku}


apples   eggs   plums   pears

fiddles   trumpets   trombones   drums

cue market flash-mob


.Lizzie Ballagher


A most effective haiku.





On the cool north side of Granny’s sprawling house

A timbered door was always shut,

Wrought iron latch dropped neatly in its heavy catch.


The silent message was loudly eloquent:

Do not enter. But we had to know

Its mysteries, the marvels beyond that threshold.


So when her back was turned

We crept along the polished passageway

Treading softly as we could, barefoot,


Then two stone steps down

To the icy chill of dim quarry tiles

And piles and banks and ranks


Of jellies and jams, hams and jars of Seville marmalade

All tightly sealed with wax, perhaps

Beside a loaf of new-baked bread or dome of cheese—


Don’t let the mice in please


All just barely visible in fitful light

That filtered through the wire-mesh fly-screen

Over a spotless granite slab


Where, sometimes, in spite of Granny’s

Industrious Edwardian housewifery, tidy domesticity,

The summer rain came slanting in.


 Lizzie Ballagher

I love the detail in this poem, jellies and jams, jars of Seville marmalade/all lightly sealed with wax.   It paints a wonderful picture.   My only adverse comment is the over-use of adjectives – you have six in the first verse alone!  Think of adjectives as precious gems and use sparingly for best effect.  That said, Pantry is an excellent narrative poem – with an unexpected twist in the last verse.


Secret admirer


Today you balanced

on my roof top world,

your legs and arms


Taking the weight of my future


You held, you moved,

 you swayed

 to another’s force,


in control, in respect, present.


You showed your mastery

and your skill,

you became that leader


and that king.


And then another day comes,

more challenges,

more worlds to conquer,


views to reign over.


More scaffold poles

to lift

and move

and bolt in place,


more respect to earn.


Angie Butler 


I love the clever way you’ve set the scene with such sparse use of language.  A couple of great phrases, eg. You became that leader/and that king.  And I like views to reign over which uses a strong verb to carry its meaning and suggest height.  I also like the pattern on the page, just right for the subject.   An excellent piece of writing.


                Our secret        


  We share secret longings you and I


We share a house, we share our girl talk

        We share our men

  we share fun and friendship.

      Coffee, lunch and chat


       and we share frustration,

           that we don’t share,

         a new life, a new love.


            Angie Butler



                                      Moira Andrew, February 2017