Tuesday 24 April 2012

Guest Blog from Jane Sharp, Crete

I’m Jane, I am a writer, poet and musician, priority going to whichever muse I get out of bed with. I am very luck to live in on the island of Crete, with its wonderful history, and its fantastic climate. Cretan people have a love of music (mainly lyra), and dance (most people know Zorba) and the food is extremely good for both vegetarians and meat eaters. There is the sea; there are mountains, wild flowers and birds, griffon vultures, the elusive whoop hoe, and lots of migrating finches that stop off on the way to or from Africa, and the air is unpolluted, fresh and fragranced with wild herbs such as oregano, rosemary, thyme and mint.

But the one thing I really miss is the company of fellow poets, the exchange of ideas, a fresh way of expression, learning from those more experienced. So I turned to Facebook to make contact with the world beyond Crete. That is how I came across Book a Poet. And it just so happens that almost simultaneously another opportunity presented itself. I heard that the famous poet Ruth Padel was to give a poetry workshop in Hania, Crete. It is a three-hour bus ride away from where I live, and it would mean staying in Hania for 5 nights, a bit of an obstacle for someone on as tight a budget as me. But I did a few calculations, and decided that this workshop meant more to me than eating lamb for Easter. 

There were only a few places so I had no time to lose. I picked up the phone and made enquiries. The voice on the other end asked if I was serious about my writing. Yes, I told him, very serious. I was accepted. 

Ruth Padel has published eight poetry collections, a novel and eight non-fiction works including books on reading poetry. She is a well-know radio broadcaster and currently presents Poetry workshop, a landmark BBC 4 series of programmes on writing poems. I hoped I was not going to be out of my depth, her list of achievements made my one novel and one poetry collection, look a bit thin. But I knew that I would learn from this much-esteemed teacher. 

We were a group of seven, eight including Ruth, that was a good start form me because 8 is my lucky number. When we all met up we were like old friends getting together for the umpteenth time, everyone got on so well. We were all at different levels with our work, but we listened to each other and criticized each other’s work, constructively of course. Ruth guided us as to how to approach specific material and themes. She shared some of her own poetry with us, reading from her latest work, ‘The Mara Crossing’, which I have to say is brilliant. And after four days of intense reading and writing, crossing out and re-writing, taking the re-written work to bed with me and re-writing it again, I had three polished poems. Finally we were all ready for a group reading in front of nearest and dearest, and a few others. 

It goes without saying that there has been no Sunday lunch in our house for the last two weeks, and the bread has gone unbuttered, but hey, not only did I get to meet some fellow writers here in Crete, I lost a few ounces of fat too. Best of all was the boost it has given me, just to know that my work is not rubbish, and that I can now proceed to seek a wider audience. 

If you do get the chance, go for a place on one of Ruth Padel’s workshops, or any of the well-known poets doing similar things, you are sure to benefit from the experience.

All the best with your writing,

Jane x


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