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Cerowyn: Lockdown Poetry Workshop

Want to know more about how to write poetry from your bedroom? Cerowyn has produced this excellent, supportive and fun video workshop which you can take part in whenever you want. 

Cerowyn: Lockdown Poetry Workshop

I have created this poetry workshop to help get your creative juices flowing and get you writing poems about your Lockdown experience. It’s absolutely fine if you’ve never attempted a single line of poetry before, but I hope these exercises will also be useful to seasoned poets. 

All you need is a pen and paper, and something to time yourself. Altogether these exercises will take you around an hour. But you can dip in and out as you wish!

If you want help with your poem and/or are interested in getting your poem published on the Sheffield Flourish website alongside other people’s, please get in touch with these details: https://sheffieldflourish.co.uk/contact-us/

If you prefer to read rather than watch videos, you can follow along with the written version below.

Exercise 1 

6 minute free-write 

Free-write from “lockdown is… or “lockdown isn’t… for 6 minutes. 

A free-write is when you write for a fixed length of time without lifting your pen from the paper the whole time! Don’t worry about what you are writing, just write whatever comes into your head. It doesn’t matter whether it makes any sense, or if you repeat yourself. The idea is to just free yourself up, and get some writing on the page.  

For this free-write start with the words lockdown is… and then write whatever comes to mind for 6 minutes. It doesn’t matter if you stray from the topic, this is just to get you started. If you get stuck just start again with lockdown is… or switch and write lockdown isn’t…  

Set your timer for 6 minutes, and don’t stop writing!  

Lockdown is… 

Lockdown isn’t… 

Lockdown is… 

Some poets never go back and read their free-writes, so you don’t have to. However, I find sometimes some interesting thoughts and ideas come out during a free-write. So if you would like to read back over what you have written and underline any words or phrases you like. Then you can go back to them later.  

Exercise 2 

Reading some poetry 

A great thing to do when you want to write some poetry, is to read some. This can help inspire you, or if you don’t like the poem it can help you think what you don’t want to do in your poem! 

For copyright reason’s I’m only going to put my own poem here, but do check out these websites if you want to read some more: 

  • The Ledbury Poetry Festival website is publishing peoples lockdown poems here
  • The Poetry Foundation website has many amazing poems, here is a link to their selection of poems about hope and resilience.  

Here is my poem I wrote about lockdown, inspired by an early morning walk I took as my daily exercise back in March: 

Tied-up swings  

In the darkness I leave the sleepy warmth of my house  

like a soul leaves the body  

The streets echo with remembered footsteps   

Lilac half-light making a joke of reality 

Till it is no longer something I can believe  

There was the wedding of two ghosts last night along this road 

All that’s left is cherry tree confetti  

Coating the ground like snow 

And the emptiness of aftermath of joy   

In the park chains of tied up swings tighten around my heart  

The padlocked gate rudely informs me this dream is not a dream  

Beneath my feet brittle grass whispers truths I cannot grasp 

Mist spreads low and silent across the lake  

And my hands ache  

Too numb to do anything about their own suffering   

The still hidden sun begins to paint the sky  

It is an almost insensitive bright yellow 

She tells me though 

She is not oblivious to our pain 

But she has seen too many night-falls to fear she will not rise again  

Cerowyn Browne 

Exercise 3  

Imagery, 16 mins 

Imagery is important in poems to really bring them alive, and help the reader really see what the writer is seeing and feel what they are feeling. 

Imagery isn’t just about describing what you can see, but is about all the senses.  

To start thinking about the imagery of lockdown take some time to make list under the following headings. Give yourself 8 minutes.  

  • Things you have seen in lockdown  

e.g my cactus growing up towards the light 

  • Sounds you have heard  

e.g my cat’s rumbling purrs 

  • Smells you have smelt  

e.g the singed crumbs from my mum burning toast 

  • Tastes you have tasted  

e.g the comforting cup of tea at 4pm 

  • The feel of things you have touched or feelings in your body 

 e.g the ache of my muscles as I try a new yoga pose 

After you’ve done this go through the senses again, but this time think of things you miss from before lockdown, for example the joyful shouts of children in the playground.  

Give yourself another 8 minutes. 

  • Things you miss seeing  
  • Sounds you miss hearing 
  • Smells you miss smelling 
  • Tastes you miss tasting 
  • Things you miss the feel of 

Exercise 4  

Metaphors and similes 5 mins 

Similes are when you describe something as being like something else.  

For example, from my poem above: like a soul leaves the body  

Metaphors are when you describe something as actually being something else.  

For example, in my poem above I describe the petals as being cherry tree confetti 

These are great ways of painting a picture in your readers mind.  

So, now think about how your experiences in lockdown could be described as other things, to help someone else understand how it has felt. Give yourself 5 minutes to answer these questions to get you going: 

  1. If your time in lockdown was a colour, what colour would it be?  
  1. If your time in lockdown had a weight, would it be heavy or light?  
  1. If you time in lockdown was an object, what object would it be?  
  1. If the lockdown rules could speak, what would they say to you? What would you reply? 

Exercise 5 

Writing your poem 20 mins 

Now it’s time to look back over everything you’ve written and see what inspires you… 

  • You could expand upon an idea you had in the free-write and add in some of your imagery?  
  • You could write a poem about a lockdown walk you went on like I did?  
  • You could write a poem about a conversation between you and “lockdown”?  

Give yourself 20 minutes to work on whatever you want, and bring in different things you wrote from the different exercises.  

Don’t worry about spelling or grammar for now, just let the ideas flow. Also don’t worry about rhyming, sometimes rhymes are great, but lots of my favourite poems don’t rhyme at all.  

The best poems show the reader something, rather than telling them.  

For example this is telling: lockdown makes me sad 

Whereas you could use some of the imagery you wrote down, and see which relates to the feeling you are trying to express. For example: in lockdown I am like plants being re-potted, I don’t know when my roots will be in soil again.   

And before you know it you’ll have written a poem! 

If you create something which you would like to share with me, I would love to read what you have written. I am very happy to help with editing as well. 

Also if you would like to share your poem on the Flourish website let me know, and we can publish everyone’s lockdown poems together.  

I look forward to hearing from you!  

Email me on: [email protected]  

Jo Eckersley

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