- a Victorian doll’s house is accompanied by a childhood memory;
- William Burges' decorated pre-Raphaelite bed inspires a 'sleeping beauty' poem - with a difference;
- a porcelain swan tureen provokes two eighteenth century ladies to a comedy of manners;
- a Roman mirror speaks to the visitor of what is past, passing and to come.
Writing situates the museum as a place of conversation rather than merely a place of instruction, making writers and visitors as much the focus of attention as the exhibits.
Conversations within the group explore how meanings shift and shuffle in and around the writing process. First we talk together, conscious that all creative endeavour is therapeutic, but also alive with difficult responsibility to self, subject and others. Silence. We attend to our writing - we try to find our way. There is trust and mutual affirmation as each senses others writing alongside.
But now the writing both separates and unites us. Alone, the meanings writhe in the space between intention and discovery.
Then, there is the sharing aloud where individual expression merges with social construction. As the words unfold in the air around us, there is excess, as well as exchange of meaning. There are surprises. Feelings ripple around the room; some are tentatively given voice. In this space meanings are multiple, malleable and diverse - incorrigibly plural. Ownership is negotiable, but we like to hear things twice. We notice new things. Nothing is ever quite the same the second time around.
Later, returning to our own writing alone, our words can stand out disconcertingly different to how they appeared in composition. They have become intertwined with new voices, stirred new stories, including our own. We may be confronted by the stark provisionality and uncertainty of things: what Bakhtin calls 'the unfinalizability of self'. We have been changed by the process. In these ways, writing isn't merely evidence of learning - it IS learning.
On April 29th another long-standing NWP group will meet at the Whitechapel Gallery. But even after 4 years, there is unfinished business. The conversation goes on. Join an NWP writing group and be part of it.
NWP outreach director