workshop thirteen – extended deadline

workshop thirteen

17th September 2017

(deadline for submissions for online feedback- 8th  October)

Welcome back after the summer break. 


I would like you to think about pieces of furniture in your home or a home from the past, comfortable chairs sagging because they have held so many people over the years, or how about that gleaming hob in the kitchen, or a white fridge covered in fridge magnets like mine is, or your sturdy wooden desk. How about the hissing steam iron and the sturdy ironing board, or your glowing bedside lamp?

Now think about people in your life, past and present. Do they remind you of a piece of furniture? Does Grandad remind you of a comfy arm chair, well worn, loved? Does your smart, well made up auntie remind you of an elegant vase? I am sure when you start thinking about it you will come up with lots of comparisons.

For inspiration here is a poem by Rachael Clyne. She has kindly given me permission to use it here:


Mother is a rickety chair, teeters,

needs a wedge to steady her,

prop her up. A chair from the Old Country,

carried on backs, luggage racks, smuggled

across borders. Father is a wooden ironing board

shut in the under-stairs cupboard. Lost

in a cloud, the piercing hiss of steam-iron

hearing aids, the irritable bash of his klomper.

Grandma is a pouffe, leathery, round; smells

of olives, lemon tea and occasional

shit on her shaky fingers – teeth in her

dressing gown pocket. Between chair,

ironing board and pouffe, I am their horseshoe

magnet bristling with pins.


(from NO NEWS YET : poems from poetry space competition 2015 ed. Myra Schneider.)

Spend some time thinking about why Rachael’s poem works so well. Don’t just rush into writing your own poem. 

Then  take a look at Simon Armitage’s Not the Furniture Game 

Again spend time reflecting on this.

Poems that you come up with along these lines will be making use of extended metaphors


Now think about pieces of furniture in your house that hold memories. I have a nursing chair in my study. It is the same age as me as Mum bought it when she was about to give birth to me. Then there was the chair out in my Dad’s conservatory that we had to get rid of after he died. I wrote about someone coming to buy it:

About a Chair

He’s here about a chair

And there it sits

solid, white tubby.

I’m clearing out I say.

Indicate the few remaining items,

gilt mirror leaning up against the wall,

a gadget to spin

and pick numbers for the pools

The singing bowl hums

as the wooden stick skims its surface.

I smooth the fabric

on the chair.

It was hardly used I say,

just for people visiting.


Stains start small, spread out

and are difficult to remove.

It’s perfect. Something

for my son to throw his clothes over.

I usually find them on the floor.

I consider what I know of sons.

It fits.

The chair has been left out in the rain.

The rain is getting icier and will soon turn to hail.

This is Dad’s house I say

He’s in a nursing home

Dementia. And frail in body too

Mine too, I go on Thursdays

A hundred miles I drive. Get home, ring to say I’m back

he says

Who are you?

It’s hard I say. Hard to go. Hard to walk away

We looked after Dad here for two years.

Then it got too much.

Hail jabs the skin like numerous needles when you go out in it.

When you go out be sure to smile.


He pulls his catheter out. It’s one that goes in above the pubic bone

It gets so sore.

How long will it go on. That’s what I ask myself,

I lie awake at night with worry.

I know he’s lonely but…his voice trails off

He lifts the chair

I help him walk it through the hall

Load it in his car

He hands me a folded note, I grip his hand,

he leaves with the chair he came for.

Susan Jane Sims, June 2014

If these ideas have inspired you then please send them in by Sunday 8th October 2017 I’ll be posting a selection and giving feedback.