Newcastle group has the write stuff

23 April 2018

Mainstream and Me project worker Alex recently joined the Write Up! group in Newcastle to learn about different forms of poetry. What he took away from the day however, was far more than proverbs and prose.

Passive clouds roll
Only the statues see
Nobody remembers
Mixed in the crowded
Wanting to be seen
But nobody remembers
Only the stars see

On 1 April, myself and colleague Shailaja travelled to Newcastle to carry out work for the CID Mainstream and Me Project. While we were there we were delighted to be invited to a meeting of Write Up!, a Newcastle-based organisation promoting writing projects for people with a disability. The group is run by Kerri Shying, a local poet.

Write Up! provides a voice for people with a disability. As a would-be writer myself, this was something I could not turn down.

All members of Write Up! have some form of disability, ranging from autism and schizophrenia, to blindness.

A change in style

The style of poetry that Write Up! practices changes with each meeting, and this month, it was Tanka Japanese poetry, which is an ancient form of writing that predates the more familiar haiku.

Like haiku, Tanka is disciplined and set to rules.

For example:

The cloud bank
Crevassed by sunset
At the lane’s end
The mountain of a man
My father was
(Claire Everett)

Staff and supporters of Write Up! are helpful and friendly, and happy to teach ways to write properly. This was beneficial to me, as my brain cannot register maths, rhythm or numbers. Kerri suggested tapping on the table to keep rhythm. Since poetry was often recited to music, this was a happy coincidence. This was what I came up with:

No numbers for me
My mind rejects
Force me to bend
Into rules
I scarcely understand

I was soon easily in the swing of things and composed a second poem.

Members of Write Up! are encouraged to get their works published in journals, and have been instrumental in creating a ‘Poetry at the Pub’ night in Newcastle.

Members of Write-Up! have submitted poetry to the Tanka journal Eucalypt in the past, and have won awards from it. Information for this was clearly delivered. We were also informed of a writer’s diary published by Pilot Press, which contains tips, competitions in Australia and other useful information.

In addition to the above Tanka, Write Up! were experimenting with Renku poetry, a form of collaborative Japanese poetry. Renku involves one writer starting off a poem with three lines, then the poem is concluded or developed by the second writer. Typically, a Renku poem is related to one subject, but sometimes it can surprisingly split in half. Shailaja and myself completed one Rengu together.

I would highly recommend Write Up! to anyone with a disability who wishes to stay creative.

About Write Up!

Write Up! meets on the second Wednesday of every month from 1:00pm to 3:00pm in Newcastle and is free. For further information, contact Kerri Shying on 0431 694 740.

Write Up! is funded by Team Up, which is a project of the Council for Intellectual Disability, Community Disability Alliance Hunter and Diversity and Disability Alliance.

Mainstream and Me project is funded by the NDIS through the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) –  ILC National Readiness Grants.

Find out more about Mainstream and Me.

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