Having never attended the Dundee Literary Festival before, I was curious as what to expect from a poetry workshop, especially one held inside an old Jute Mill museum. After fingering the edges of the Mill gate assuming it was the only way in, I noted a modest sign on a door a little to the right of the gate “Lindsay MacGregor ‘Weaving a poem’Workshop – Please ring the bell!”Feeling a little foolish for my attempted break-in I rang the bell timidly to the surprising sound of a whistle blowing.
Lindsay herself welcomed me warmly and directed me towards the ‘Red Box’, a modern little room built within the Mill and inviting me to help myself to any of the refreshments. The room was set out in tables of five, clad with clipboards and paper, photographs and poems. Being 10 minutes early I assumed I would be the first in, but the room was already half full with eager poet weavers with more people still shuffling in around me so I quickly claimed a seat and waited for the workshop to begin.
Lindsay introduced herself and gave a little history about the Mill: built in 1833, it was named The Verdant Works because it was once surrounded by beautiful green pastures. She gave a summary of the people who worked there, the majority of whom were women and children . She then threw what could be seen as an horrifically enigmatic question to the floor: “What is poetry?”. Oh no, I panicked, my total lack of poetic knowledge is going to rumble me as a litfest newbie! However a relaxed conversation began between us as a group and we managed to come up with an answer by process of elimination with the aid of Lindsay’s suggestions.
The sense of team work was comfortable and of a genuine nature as everyone present had been engaged by Lindsay’s gentle guidance. Once we had all seemed to enter the flow of writing, we took a quick tour of the Jute Museum itself with a member of staff to inspire us further in our potential poem. Once back in the Red Box we were given ten minutes to write continuously – anything that came to mind whilst touring the building. Lindsay then announced that there were ten more minutes to create the work into a poem, giving helpful hints towards structure and language, advising that the last word of each line was the most important to think about.
I couldn’t believe it. I’d written a poem! Lindsay invited each of us to read the poem aloud, stressing that we did not have to if we didn’t feel comfortable doing so and that the work was our own piece to do with it as we pleased. Each read piece reflected a special part of the museum in mind.
“Weaving a poem” was a thoroughly enjoyable workshop and educational on both a historical and poetic level, with the chance to meet others in the community with a shared love of both the City and celebrating it in such a beautiful form. Definitely an event to keep an eye out for next year!