poetry space workshop ten

 For this tenth poetry space workshop I would like you to read or listen to Robert Browning’s poem My Last Duchess and then write a monologue .
A good way in would be to think of a situation where you would be talking to one person about another person.Or if you prefer talking to one person about an object or about an animal. In your poem I want it to be evident that the other person is asking questions but don’t have them speak directly.
This is my own attempt at this having just spotted an object of interest on my book shelf, a really old and worn copy of Rudyard Kipling’s Wee Wilie Winkie.
Next to the bible
Which book? The one next to the bible.
The red one? Okay I’ll get it down for you.
It’s very old and frail, so careful how you handle it.
How old is it? It’s dated 1910.
So be careful how you turn its delicate cream pages.
It’s an interesting book, not a first edition, no,
but look at the signature inside.
Clarrie C. Tomlins. When I found this I wanted more.
Wanted to know who she was. And between the pages
there’s a faded browning at the edges, piece of paper
with her name more formally described.
Clara Colston Tomlins. A pass for physiology in the 1913
University of Bristol exams. Over a hundred years
and that scrap is still inside that book. Why?
That tells you something. Don’t you think?
Yes you’re right. This book was treasured,
for a lifetime. Or carefully passed through generations.
Until there was no one left to care.
What happened next is unknown.
In 1913, she would have had such hope,
an educated woman, privileged to be getting a degree.
But 1913, think about it. A year away from war.
Her life was bound to change.
You don’t think you’ll take it. It’s not your thing.
You know I think I’m  kind of relieved.
It belongs here on this shelf.
I’ll keep it safe. For Clarrie.
The deadline for this workshop was Saturday 13th May.
Here are the poems we had submitted.

Scheming hell                                    


If ever there was a scheming hell,

then it visited you both this week.

There are no words to help.

It is how things happen


and we must get through them.

Having others by your side and

understanding and listening

is surely  what matters now.


You were doing such a good turn

in your busy life. Your heart always

in the right place, wanting to help,

to make things right for others.


So for this to happen has torn

you open too. She will never forget

and neither will you. But this time will

pass and be the bond between you.


Angie Butler

An intriguing piece Angie. I am not sure I understand what is happening in this poem. Only that something life changing and perhaps tragic has struck and changed things forever.Though it is clearly addressed to another person,  I don’t really get the sense of this being half a conversation.


In 1607 they couldn’t swim!


You didn’t see it? This horror from 1607?

Well, let me tell you how the story

came alive on the screen. As crashing waves

hurtled into our today room;  

we shrank back into our comfy chairs.


No television then? No videos?

You’re right, but there was

a proud new printing press!

black and white drawings of waves

and waving. Lists of Jenny and Sam,

village and  inlet. Accounts of terrifying

water eating up the coast, land and sea

all mixed up in their  geography.


Yes, that’s how they knew so much.

Ancient pages gave names and numbers,

showed  villages flattened;

the woman tilling the ground,

the boy in frills lying by the fire,

 the priest or verger going into the church,

 the worker, the rich, the holy all overcome.


What struck me most?

Water broke the latticed window,

robbed the air in the small cottage,

engulfed the fields and all the sheep.

Striking was the golden cross

washed under the waves;

nothing seemed safe.


Did I remember 2006?

Yes, it made us think of the tsunami

on Boxing day, the one we remember.

Television again spewing the horror

 right into our comfortable homes.


You ask if 1607 was a tsunami?

Seems very likely.

How on earth can they prove it?

Just that – earth stories;

layers of dark brown sand,

stone and shells told their story.

An account of a submarine shudder

in the Irish Sea; sand, shells

stories from the past,

signs of the utter shock of 1607.

the sudden in pouring of the ocean.



Oh, sorry you missed this broadcast.

Try I player and watch it again;

the waves and the waving,

the black and white curves

the sweet boy by the fire

can all rush into your living room

whenever you choose.


Judy Dinnen

I know you said you found this challenging but I think you have achieved the sense of the being half a conversation. I like the idea of comparing two events and how the handing and recording of these events is so different. Just drawings in 1607 and vivid images in 2006. A thought provoking poem.




Mum Leaves an Answer-phone Message:

For Émigrée, 1976


I suppose you have a US accent now?

We’d really like to hear your voice—

Why don’t you ring us, Christmas-time?

I’m sure you could afford to phone us,

Now you’re living Over There. They say

The people in the States are rich as kings. Well, is it true?

You write that you are short of cash, so we don’t understand.


Old Mrs Walters died on Friday night. Well did you know,

She never set a foot outside this town in all her eighty years?

And Judith down the road gave birth the other day—a baby boy—

I don’t know if you’d like her any more;

You seem so busy nowadays;

And anyway, what could you have in common with her now—

Or with us—you being such a travelled girl?


Your aunt and I drove down to Exmoor yesterday

And saw the woods and walked the path beside the farm

That you discovered as a child—do you remember it?

It looked so fresh and pretty everywhere.

We couldn’t help but search beside the stream

In hopes of seeing snowdrops

Where you found them years ago.


I don’t suppose you think about the place…or do you?

Just so you like it Over There, that’s all.

Darling, it’s only me—your ever-loving Mum.


Lizzie Ballagher

This is very poignant Lizzie. The format of an answerphone message works well as does the gossipy tone; Mum delivering news to her daughter.


The Consultation
(In a distant village ,some fifty years ago)

Namaste( greeting in parts of the Indian subcontinent), please sit down,
Who is this person with you?
Your Ama ? (mother).That’s fine.Nurse bring a chair for her.
What’s your name?
Somi. How old are you Somi?
Don’t you know?
Ama do you remember ?
When we had the first earthquake?
Let me think.About 14 years ago?
Let’s say she is 15 years.Alright?
What can I do for you Somi?
Ama, please let her speak.
You are having nausea and sickness ,
What else ?
Pain in the stomach?
Any thing else? Loose stools?
How long have you had this?Four months.
Are you able to eat?
No? That’s not good. Are you drinking plenty of fluids?
Ama, she may not like it ,but she must drink.
Why didn’t you come earlier?
Oh, you live beyond the mountain.
Hard coming that distance.
Somi, I need to examine you,
Come and lie on the couch.
Ama you may hold her hand.
Please loosen your skirt Somi.
Relax, I won’t hurt you.
Now,where is the pain?
It is slightly tender here below the naval ,
Nothing to worry about but there is good news.
Come and sit down.
Congratulations,you are about five months pregnant.
Please don’t cry. Ama why are you screaming,
What’s the matter?
Aren’t you happy? Your husband will be happy.
This is whose work?
A booth (ghost)?
Why do you say that?
Her husband’s been away for one year?
Oh! A booth (ghost)!
What do I know, I am only a doctor!

Leela Gautam

I love this Leela. There is a sense of the patient and mother being there though we hear just the Doctor’s voice. The story is sad but there is also humour.