“Reading and Writing Poetry with Visual Images: St. Rose of Lima’s College” by Eddie Tay

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Eddie Tay

I have had the pleasure of conducting a poetry writing workshop, part of the Cha Writing Workshop Series, at St. Rose of Lima’s College on Wednesday 24 October 2018 at the invitation of Ms. Ivy Ng, the panel chairperson at the school. All Form 4 students were in attendance. There were 139 of them!

The workshop was on visual imagery in poetry. I explained the Modernist/Imagist approach to poetry, most notably Ezra Pound’s injunction “Go in fear of abstractions” and T. S. Eliot’s notion of the “objective correlative”.

We then looked at Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”, William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow” and Wong Phui Nam’s untitled poem that begins with the line “The river grows harsh at the bend”. Wong’s poem is remarkable in the way it conveys emotions via the presentation of a physical landscape.

The students were then given 2 exercises to choose from. They could write a short narrative and then translate all the abstract words in the narrative into visual images. Or they could write a poem titled “These Are Photographs of Me”, choosing from some or all of the images provided. The images include a photograph of the actor Andy Lau, Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream and Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory. Many of them volunteered to read their first drafts at the end of the session and I was amazed by the emotions invested in their writing.

I am especially grateful for the support of the English teachers at the school – they helped with a number of queries the students had concerning the exercises. The school principal, Ms. Kitty Lin, was present as well and we had a chat about her commitment to English Literature as a subject at the school. The school is compiling a school anthology of student’s writing for next year and I’ve the honour of being asked to write a foreword to it.

Hurray for St. Rose of Lima’s College!

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///// The Cha Writing Workshop Series: We plan to hold one to two writing workshops every month, for local school children (all levels), as well as economically and socially disadvantaged groups. If you’d like to suggest an idea, please contact the organisers, Tammy Ho (t@asiancha.com) and/or Eddie Tay (eddie@asiancha.com). Click here to see a list of past and future workshops. And click here to read instructors’ reflections on the workshops. /////

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