Granite steps in cliff face
lead me to a timbered shed
where poems are dovetailed.
Wind carves the waves
a sand-grained stone tastes salty.
I stroke planed curve
of blue dolphin
lift a conch to my ear
listen to another sea.
During my 40 years working in London Colleges, bringing up our four children, being a governor at their nursery and primary schools, being involved in community and political activity like Lewisham Playbus, CND, Anti-Apartheid and Anti-Nazi League, I met many liberated women who educated me. I had no time to attend women’s groups as such but my last job with London Open College Network was all women and a caring, compassionate organisation. I went to Greenham Common with a community of women pacifists. Without the earlier Women’s Movement these activities may not have been possible. Colleagues, students and comrades raised my consciousness of women’s issues, which inform my life and work
On my return to Ireland in 2000 i did an MA in Women’s Studies in UCD led by Ailbhe Smyth a prominent member of Irish Women’s Movement. We explored women’s history, literature and psychology. It was a relaxed but vibrant group of young and older women. We formed strong friendships and laughed a lot.
In 2001 Bernie Kenny invited five women to join her in a writing shed overlooking Killiney Bay to work together reading, writing, workshopping poems, exploring ways of making poems, reading more widely mainly contemporary poets. Now in 2018 Bernie, aged 93, continues to receive us graciously every Wednesday morning.
We are primarily a poetry group of older women who started writing seriously when we retired from work and our children were grown so it’s less art within the cracks as after the chasm. We are close friends, care for each other, share good news and concerns. We have published many books, as group anthologies or individual collections and in 2012 we collaborated with Anna, my daughter, and her friend Liz Purnell to make a film of our poems and images, The Poets’ Shed.
We read in many poetry venues, go on holidays together, exploring, cooking, walking, swimming, writing and so much talk and laughter. We are a Women’s Group though we do not define ourselves as this.
Here’s what the ‘Sheds’ say about the benfits of writing in a group
- I learned, enjoyed support, ideas and companionship. I am growing in my poems.
- Being part of this group has pushed me just enough to make me work at writing.
- Without their help I would have written nothing.
- Workshopping the poems with the group has improved the quality of my writing and I have learned to hone and accept critique of my poems.
- Responses to poems, our own and others, give a wider knowledge of poetry and the group gave me confidence to publish my collection and to do my MA in Poetry in the Seamus Heaney Centre in my 80s!
- We have a closer relationship both with poems and with each other
- We form a real friendship, support the work, make it a pleasure to meet, share concerns.
- I feel comfortable and love the people with all our differences.
- Shed poets provide a support group, share common concerns and life experience.
I recommend all women creatives should join forces with other woman for support and encouragement.
Rosy Wilson September 21st 2018