Fishing with Woods

I’m not completely sure I want to re-open the fish/poetry/Kilkeel debate, but I did receive an e-mail from Dave Woods, which might go part of the way to explaining where he and the project were coming from and hoping to go to. Dave also explains how the flow of language from the children came about, and what he felt was significant about it. I don’t think I really did justice to Dave’s perspective, and I hope this will enlighten you all. Cos I know how much y’all want to be enlightened.

The poem is a semi-narrative piece; the output is about direct repsonse to real and imagined. There is also a sense of story (or happening) behind it. Whatever its rhyming merits and/or meter (poetry does not have to rhyme or have tight scansion – look at haiku and/or John Hegley), the starting statement was, we’re going to build a poem. The children took me at my word and gave me some quick and startling images.

The poem was not a piece pondered on for days – it is elemental and basic. There was no time or chance to intellectualise on the merits or pitfalls of reconciliation – the process was a gut reaction.

The first question I asked to build the poem was ‘if you could describe the way that the people of Kilkeel get along as a smell – what would it be? Then it was – what would one of these smells say to the other and what would the response be?

So really, the first bold statement was about communication. The people, reduced to the stench of their own locality (death to fish) argue about who’s the most stinkiest. This could either be a statement on ‘who’s the most rigid in their politics or religion (fish being a symbol of some ‘streams’ (sorry!) of Christiantiy or it could be a name calling.

The last question was, if the stinks could get on, where would the best place for them be? The synbol of the fish factory is that of a great equaliser – everybody dies and everybody stinks.

It was during the session, as I asked questions to build the rest of the piece, that the children would avoid these askings but be resolute about what they wanted to say. I had become, in essence, a messenger for them. (messenger of the cods – perhaps?)

  • Nevin

    What a load of old cod. I hope Woods isn’t a ‘dangerous’ poet in the mould of Pearse!!

  • Miss Fitz

    I dont know that we really covered much blood sacrifice or odes to devoted mothers, so I dont think Dave really represents a threat to the stability of our little country-ette

  • Rory

    Nor, we may hope, any commentators, Nevin, dangerously philistine in the mould of petty bourgeois fearful spite.

  • Pete Baker

    Miss Fitz [and Dave]

    “The poem was not a piece pondered on for days – it is elemental and basic.”

    I realised that.. and it has it’s merits as an exercise in engaging children in a spontaneous process.

    But I would have preferred, and I believe the resulting poem would have benefited, if they had also been engaged in a fuller creative process that involved the revision and editing.

    I realise that was not possible in the circumstances, which is why I maintain that the poem has significance for those involved in its creation.. but doesn’t necessarily convey that beyond that small group.

    Although I’m also starting to be concerned about the choice of questions.. the second question, in particular, invites the response that one group is stinkier than the other.


    I’d like to see him do a similar excercise with Slugger regulars.
    I’m sure we could manage it, if we put our minds to it.

  • Miss Fitz

    Actually Taf, not a bad point. And I have no doubt about the levels of maturity we could attain.

    Bet you’re stinkier than me though.