Dancing with Words at Hawarden

Dear Body… be a bell that rings your presence, singles your space, O acolyte of days.…

These were words that flowed from my head down my arm and hand, through pen to paper, surprising my mind as my eyes read them back to me on the page. I was at poet Polly Atkins’ ‘Writing the Body’ Masterclass along with fourteen other bodies cosied round the large table in the Anwyl Room at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden.

Polly reminded us that, as Joyce Sutphen puts it ‘Living in the Body,’ which you can find  here , ‘Body is something you need in order to stay/on this planet and you only get one.’

It can be all too easy to treat the body as merely a mind mobility-unit until it reminds us otherwise by giving us problems. Our bodies are ultimately not silent slaves to our active lives, but may decide to make their presence and needs felt in ways that can impact our movements, identity, hopes, time or choices.

Our bodies, clearly, have something to communicate. But what do they know and what do they want to say to us?

Through reading different poems, listening to our own bodies and their relevant parts, and exploring in our own words, Polly invited us to engage our bodies in conversations, to find out what happens ‘When the body wishes to speak’ to quote Linda Hogan’s poem  here

As we read our writing to each other, we heard from bodies that spoke in different tones: from parental, indignant and patient to encouraging, wise or challenging. Our bodies were asking us for our consideration, reminding us of the care and enabling they offered us. We found ourselves expressing our pride in them and our gratitude, as well as, at times, struggling with the limitations they imposed. Some of us engaged particular body parts that made themselves known to us personally for conversation: knees, ribcage, heart, liver.

The day was captivating. We were making a simple, though challenging, choice to give our attention to our own bodily experience, from sitting there and then in the room to calling to mind the feelings of being physically in motion.

Some of us allowed our bodies to speak to us for the first time; others restored a relationship long estranged. Ir was a time to let the body, rather than the mind, lead the way.

As the day went on, the group itself became an image of a working body – different parts making their unique contribution to the harmonious and supportive whole. This was a body in good shape. Its parts could listen to one another, value each other, laugh together and even allow a few tears.

As we reflected on our bodies in motion, our writing variously took us skiing, dancing, and for me, using a rowing machine at the gym – that great black metal insect just waiting for the press and pull of my exertions to whirr it into life! Writing about this in itself made me more attuned to how my body felt and moved at my gym session the next day. Finding words for an experience can bring us full circle to deepen our awareness of the experience itself.


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