Thursday, 15 October 2015

Autumn, according to NIBS

Last night was our monthly get-together for NIBS, the creative writing group I help to run. I chose an autumn theme, and went armed with some autumny pictures (everything from pumpkin soup to rutting deer and fantasy figures in dresses made of leaves), a basket full of coloured leaves, conkers and berried branches, and some quotes about autumn from Goodreads. (If you see anything here to get your writerly juices flowing, why not have a go and post in the comments below? Or link back to your blog space, if you have one?)

A basketful of autumn...

Autumn words and pictures

We started off with a quick reason-write; Exactly why are squirrels gathering all those nuts and berries?

The first one read out had us in stitches and stole the show; did you know that squirrels are working towards world domination and the berries are just a front for their weapon-making collaboration with the moles? We even got an evil laugh at the end of the reading... There were some great ideas coming through and it gave us a bit of time for everyone to arrive as unfortunately, there'd been an accident on the road up to church which meant a couple of folk had to turn back and come the long way round to get to us...

And then, for the first time at NIBS, we just did what we wanted. Normally, we try a few writing exercises, but this time, because everyone's fairly confident now at producing something off-the-cuff, we just went for it! Faced with the props I'd taken, there was free choice as to whether to write poetry, a story, a memoir - so long as it had an autumn theme, it really didn't matter.

We wrote for half an hour, and boy, did we end up with some beauties...

 - A short story, told from a conker's point of view, right up to the point of him becoming a 'sixer'. We were all nodding at the mention of being stuck in a pocket or polished on a trouser leg - how many times have we done that  as both children and adults?

 - A beautiful piece of poetry based on the quote 'autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons'. The author usually writes emotively and this was no exception - I was really moved and quite overwhelmed by the finished piece, which compared autumn's treasures to those of the other seasons. Quite beautiful.

 - A really interesting piece about autumn as the bringer of death - would you have ever described the leaves of this season as 'red as blood, yellow as pus in a wound and brown as crisp as burnt flesh?' Thought not! The author admitted afterwards to not liking autumn: it showed! And made a lasting impression...

 - Another took as their prompt the picture of a woman in a leafy dress, walking with her owl through the woods. The narrator was hidden in a tree, watching - we never found out why, but there was so much longing coming through in the writing, a real yearning for...something.

 - One author was fascinated by a particular leaf I'd brought - she wrote a short but gorgeous poem which made us feel the beauty of the colours and the contrast between the 'last crescendo' of the life of the leaf and its ultimate death.

Me? Well, I had a go at a poem and then did a bit of a 'five senses of autumn' thing, where I listed lots of things that mean autumn to me. Can't say I was entirely happy with either - I would have loved to have evoked some of the imagery that the rest of the group managed, but I tend to be a bit more matter-of-fact in my writing - plain speaking, almost - which doesn't have quite the feel I'd loved to have achieved. But I'll share the poem with you and leave you to judge. It was based on the quote 'October, baptize me with leaves!' and I've tweaked it a bit overnight. Here goes...

Autumn's baptism.

October, baptize me with leaves!
Pour your fiery shades into this chill, fresh morning.
Bright sun with no heat illuminates copper and gold and orange and brown
as the cold night forces the branches to finally loose their hold
and the leaves are let go.
They float down on a whispering breeze
which turns these thousands - millions - of individual deaths
into a short, illusory dance of life,
until they lay still on dew-damp grass.
I scuff through the crisp, rustling shell that blankets the earth
as summer heat is washed from the world
and I am baptised afresh in autumn's leafy waters;
a final blaze of glory before bare branches and glittering frosts bring winter.

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