poetry space workshop thirteen

workshop thirteen

These are the poems inspired by this workshop – full workshop details below the poems submitted.



I’ve always craved Mum’s china cabinet

plump as a maiden aunt,

in the same spot, for years.

I’d drag it out first in the rush of a fire,

or as the house slips

into shifting memory.


It’s Reubens-stout,

parading a clutter of fifties floral china,

cottage garden crazed, shy

with dust behind the glass;

sixty years of Gilmore Place.


In the quiet of Sunday afternoon

its key creaks. Teapot lids shoogle.

Gold-pink blushes, egg shell blue smudged.

Glass blown vases preen.

Suggestive stems do handstands.


My heart drums an arrhythmic beat 

‘Let her go. Let it rest.’


Maggie MacKay

I love this evocative piece, Maggie. The first two lines set the scene brilliantly. 

I’ve always craved Mum’s china cabinet

plump as a maiden aunt,

The plump maiden aunt is an apt description of a china cabinet brimming with treasure, yet also striking and unusual. 


The Mirror

Deep in the basement,
hidden among the trivia
of a lifetime-a mirror.
A parting gift from a friend,
long gone to where she’d come from.
An elegant,ornate piece of mahogany and gilt
Its oval face had reflected our smiles
As we dabbled with kohl and lipgloss
and grew to awareness.
The mirror ,a record of our friendship,
was mine,
Then it fell and cracked.Bedlam,fear!
“Bad luck,bad luck,
Death in the family” wailed an elder.
“Throw it away.Appease the gods”
demanded another.
Bereft, my tears fell and flowed into the crack.
I prayed “please, no bad luck”
I buried the mirror in the basement,
It cannot hurt us now,I thought.
Luck happened,bad and good.
Our ailing dog of 10years died,
A relief!
My niece was born,
Such joy!
I grew and moved on.Left the mirror behind,
Tried,never found my friend.
Fifty years later,a house to clear.
Wrapped in the moth eaten newsprint of that time
I found it. The mirror.
Worn ,dusty and speckled ,
the crack ,a smile across it’s face.
Tears fell as I returned the smile.
Once again ,I was with my friend .

Mahogany and gilt


Leela Gautam

I like this Leela. You have used the mirror as the symbol of a friendship that meant so much to a child that I am presuming is you. It shows how objects hold memories. One glimpse and a whole heap of memories come back. It would benefit from being split into smaller stanzas.


The Vintage Look

She is a brass bed, bought in her youth

in a local antique shop. They laughed at the choice.

She is worn, chipped but timeless. Serving

a purpose, gaining in value, if value is not counted

in coins, but in care.


She is crockery too, from another age,

a sauce boat and cruet, with salt and pepper,

shaped as white doves of peace.  Tureens with

lids, holding steaming home grown goodness.

Lovingly passed on.


And she can tell a story, like the family bible of old,

of a family, held together by love’s ties and values

and bound by life’s memories, placed on a dark

welsh dresser, by the willow pattern and touched by

gnarled fingers on wood.


Angie Butler

This is very good, Angie. I like the idea of the woman as first the brass bed, then crockery. It evokes an age when solid items mattered and when rituals like writing names and memories in an old family bible were commonplace. It is the exquisite detail that makes this. 


The Map


Her looks are deceptive, but get close enough to open

her up, this small map has detail and information. She

has all the right roads to follow and she can be like a

beacon shining the way. A lifeline, for anyone lost.


She shows many countries and is understood in them all.

Different languages are no problem to her, in fact,

she relishes learning routes, understanding cultures and

sharing the right paths. Hills and valleys show without effort,


 woods and mountains put a shine on her face . It seems to

 be one of her many qualities, to reflect how far she and

 others have come. But it is the places on the coast, where

 she comes into her own. Her salt licked surface and the sea


 breezes gently lifting her. She’s strong enough though,

not to crumble in the toughest of storms and the worst of

 weather too. This is a map that pushes boundaries. Relishing

detail. Overcoming problems and helping others.


No one should be without

                                                             a map like her.



Angie Butler

Another lovely poem, Angie and more unexpected. The item is once again seen as a woman and this is a woman coming into her own, a survivor, knowing herself well and being able to give of herself as well as being able to push boundaries. 



Daydream on the Rocking Chair


Some day when I’m disposed of on the tip

Or in the hollows of a skip,

I have a nasty suspicion you will say:

There never was a day

When it was an easy chair—

But difficult & prickly

With bent-coil springs

And fraying fabric—

Poor old thing!


Yet in my dreams I am a rocking chair

(Perhaps creaking just a little here & there,

Or leaking goose-down on the floor);

But with polished spindles curved against your back,

Seat padded, welcoming—all to soothe:

Embroidered, elegantly smooth.


So when your own fabric’s fraying

And your springs have boinged out

With too much wear & tear

From lively children

Jumping like magic beans, saying

In their bouncy-castles-in-the-air

That you’re their awesome trampoline

Of endless entertainment, jollity,

I hope you’ll lean & rest on me.


And I will rock you, rock you,

Rock you, cradle you tight,

Like the Beatles on a good day’s sunshine,

Or Elvis on a Memphis night…

In the heaven

Of a golden-oldies rocking chair.


Lizzie Ballagher

I can see you enjoyed writing this Lizzie. Rocking Chairs are an item of furniture that inspires nostalgia and I love the last stanza with mentions of Beatles and Elvis. I feel the poem really starts with the second stanza. I would omit the first. It was the starting point, I can see, but best discarded. The twin voices of chair and human voice do not quite work. I would prefer it written all from one viewpoint.  


Thanks everyone.

Finally as Maggie Mackay has only just found this workshop series from an old Facebook post I am including her poem below, from Workshop one (early memory)

A Third of a Pint


It was good for us,

the grown-ups said.

Bottles stood

for an hour

by the warm radiator

their contents turning yellow,

iced with a slab of cream.

We queued at the crate,

four year olds, way too

young for rebel

hormone spurt.

Miss Lawley

-I thought Lolly-

did her duty.


Maggie Mackay

I think this is one that will resonate with a lot of us of a certain age. It surely would break all health and safety rules now to serve up milk like this. 




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.