A Storyteller's Process and Competition Runner-Up: Penny Turner

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I wrote the poem about the wolf after I met a wild wolf in the mountains of Northern Greece where I was working as part of a sustainable development project for the area. I was in charge of horses, but also worked with a project to rescue dancing bears and wolf rescue. I became somewhat disenchanted with the "sustainable development" idea, because I felt that in order to make people feel less hostile to wolves they were being told that wolves were not what our hearts feel them to be..wild. So I wrote the poem about how wrong this attitude was.

Until I met the wolf I had at least colluded in the story that they were harmless, but after I met this wild wolf.. he was a lone wolf, moving through, and not part of the small pack that had this area as their territory. Although I had seen the tracks of these wild wolves and heard them howling on the dark mountainsides, I only recognised my true feelings about wolves when I met a wolf at dusk. I was cycling up a track not far from the village when I met him, and I understood the local people`s myth.. that if you meet a wolf if he meets your eyes first he will take your soul, and if your eyes hold his first, he becomes fawning and tame. Then I realised that in our wolf sanctuary the rescued wolves had lost all their dark magic, and that if the sustainable development of the area continued the wild wolves would have nowhere left to wander. Sustainable development was taking the soul of the wilderness in order that the wilderness might be saved. And I thought about our project..all these poor lost rescued civilized wolves and I realised they were scarcely wolves at all any more. And it was this paradox that I wrote about: if we don`t persuade people that wolves are harmless then they won`t let them remain in the forests, and yet..the very reason to have wolves is because of that uncompromising wildness, that wildness that I found myself in love with, a feeling that I know other people share.

Penny was a runner-up in the Wild Words Winter Solstice Writing Competition 2018, with this…

WOLF

It is said that if you meet a wolf and he looks you in the eye first, then he will take your soul. If you stare into his eyes first you will tame him.. Nothing is said about what will happen if your gaze meets his at the same moment..

I saw a wolf in the gloaming

His eyes were silver grey

He halted in his roaming

And conjured my soul away.

I crossed his path in the gloaming

Met his eyes of silver grey,

Spellbound he stopped his roaming

I tamed his fierceness away.

My gaze dispelled his darkness

Left him blinking in the light,

But I desired his lost wildness

And to join him in the night.

The dark forest was around us

While he dazzled in the light

Soon darkness will surround us

And I`ll lose him to the night.

From the archive: Jed, The Blocked Writer

A year ago, a stooped 27 year-old man came to me for poetry tuition.

He had a mop of black hair and smelled of spirits. He came because his father had read my CV, and thought, that with my qualifications, I might be able to help his son.

Jed told me that all he wanted to do was to be a poet, but ‘nothing comes out right’.  He didn’t care about my qualifications, but he liked the concept of writing ‘Wild Words’. He said it would be nice to feel like a wild animal when he wrote, but instead, he usually felt more like his little brother’s hamster, going round and round on its wheel.

As we talked, he asked me crossly why I hadn’t yet asked to see his writing, and motioned to the groaning backpack sitting at his feet.

But I didn’t need to look at his writing to understand what was going on, I only had to look at his body. His skin was sickly white. His hands were blue with cold, even though the room was warm. Sometimes, when he told me about the subject of his poetry, colour rose in his cheeks, but it was quickly followed by a deflation of his body, and a draining of colour. And then of course, there was the smell of alcohol.

He asked me, even more angrily, why I hadn’t asked him for the reasons for his ‘writer’s block’, the reason he couldn’t write well. I said that I was sure he already knew the reason, and that he’d probably already thought through it a thousand times, to no avail. I was going to try a different approach. He looked sceptical.

He told me the reason anyway. Apparently, his father was a well-known poet. ‘I’m scared that I will never write like my father’ he said. ‘And it’s seizing me up’.

I asked him then to remember a time when he did write well, when the words flowed.

He told me about a writing competition he had won when he was twelve. I invited him to close his eyes, to remember that experience, and to see how it felt in his body. He told me he felt a warmth, a relaxation spreading from his chest out through his limbs.

Next, I asked him to think about a time when he sat down to write but felt blocked. Where in his body was that physical sense of block? He told me it was in his stomach. At this point he started telling me again about his fears of not matching up to his father’s success. I told him not to think, but to just stay with his bodily experience. If he scanned his body, despite the feeling of block in his chest, was there a place where he still felt the warmth or movement from the writing competition experience? He said yes, there was. It was in his hand. I then got him to move his attention back and forth between his stomach and his hand, touching into the block, and then back again to a place of relaxation.

Through doing this in the session, and by practicing it at home, he gradually found that he could pick away at the edges of the feeling of block his stomach, and integrate it with the feeling of flow in his hand. Eventually that enabled him to find flow in the whole of his body. This process led spontaneously to writing ideas flowing from his body on to the paper. He was an unblocked writer.

The day this happened, he called me immediately. He was excited and laughing, but also confused. He told me, ‘I’m writing, the words won’t stop coming, but now I have another problem, I’m writing a comedy screenplay, not poetry. That’s not what I want to write. I’ve always wanted to be a poet’.

The psychotherapist Peter Levine has a saying- ‘The body knows’.

This is what I told him. Your body knows what it needs to say. From then, my work with Jed, which lasted six sessions, became about helping him to find his own voice, rather than meeting his father’s expectations, or trying to follow in his footsteps.

The Weekly Prompt

Write a 1000 word prose piece, or a poem, using the prompt ‘The Body Knows’.

As always, I’d be delighted to read what you come up with, if you’d like to send it to me. 

This article was first published on the 29th November 2013