Working with the Roses

I spent 5 Tuesday mornings, in February and March of this year working with a very interesting and creative group of women who live in or near the Thorntree estate. The women are of all ages and know each other really well. We met come rain or shine or (mostly) snow to share personal experiences and attempt to translate some of these into artefacts of various kinds.

I am a writer, published mainly as a poet, and have worked with lots of groups, encouraging exploration of language in various ways. One of the things that I thought I knew was about how difficult it can be for people who don’t reach for a pen or a keyboard automatically when they want to express themselves. The blank page is a fearsome thing for any writer, so it should not be surprising if non-writers feel this even more intensely.

What struck me forcefully about the Roses is the fluency and liveliness of their spoken exchanges with each other. They are great talkers, story tellers, debaters, raconteuses. But the written word is another beast. So the introduction of something practical – a zigzag book with pockets for secret verses, a box to store written words in – was a way in which the beast could be tamed. We had five great weeks putting together some lovely work, and I learned a lot.

Some of the work we made together