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For six weeks, nine women from Nottingham have made a ‘virtual home’ together each Wednesday morning to write, to reflect and to be creative. Winter can feel tough, but this year especially, as we’ve all had to cope with the challenges of lockdown, it’s felt even more important to do whatever we can to connect and find support in each other. It’s been a privilege for me to get to know these women and hear their words, alongside our ‘remote’ member who has experienced the course parallel to the weekly Zoom sessions. As ever doing this work, I have been blown away by the power and potential of writing in a group – creatively, expressively and reflectively - and as ever, I have been on my own professional and personal journey.

Without having much choice, most of us have been spending more time at home. We wondered a bit at first how we’d find inspiration in something that for many was feeling tired and a bit stagnant. Something not just warm and cosy, but emotive and complex. It quickly became apparent that our notion of home is layered, fluid and intimately bound up with our sense of self. Each week, it has been fertile ground for both creativity and self-reflection. From exploring the idea of ‘home to ourselves,’ to working with objects, rooms, hometowns - to our connection with the natural world - we have breathed new life into the concept of home. We’ve worked with form and freedom, allowing our pens to lead the way in free writes, jiggling lines into a structure as we compose poems.

What I’ve realised in new ways as we’ve moved through the course, is that when we give ourselves permission to write without an audience in mind, the results can be fresh, unique, and often surprising. My Wednesday mornings won’t be the same. I’ll miss the sense of connection and the warm supportive space the group has made as we’ve dipped into each other’s homes, gathered on a screen. I hope you enjoy reading the beautiful words that came from our time together as much as I enjoyed hearing them each week.



"Thank you too for your lovely Weds morning class, so nurturing and thoughtful - the sessions have been really good for me at this time.."

Workshop participant, Nottinghamshire

Lytisha, Gail, Sarah D, Dawn, Anne, Ann, Noam, Sam, Sarah S, Andrea - Nottingham Writing from Home Group

You are my sanctuary, my place to be, to fall apart, with no brave face
you are my container, my depository of love
through memories, inherited and held.
You are my anchor, sunk deep, holding me to this place
above stormy seas, while on the surface, I travel far and wide
always coming back to you.

You are my refuge, my sanctuary, the place I can return to, safe
to rejuvenate.
You are my place to rest, to be my authentic self without judgement
surrounded by walls that always know the truth.
You are my place inside, the place of nurture, the place of the internal mother.

Home is where it's OK to be scruffy, a sanctuary, to use Zoom in pyjama trousers,
a shelter, warmth, a roof for love - I can stray and return to you.
Home is my armour, sanctuary and well-spring, where I am nourished and able to stretch myself further.
You are my refuge, my solidity,
the centre of creativity, of warmth and love
given unconditionally.
You too are part of the journey

Noam Livne

Heron was inspired by the discussion about how we can be uplifted and supported and nour-ished by nature while staying at home - it's directly a poem of nature as observed from within the home.

Diagonally across the street
under blueness as sharp as his bill

over dull roofs and mesh-covered fish ponds
he lumbers majestically
leaving a trail of beaten air
to scatter down silver shimmers
of the royal presence:br>
a flying visit
on the way back to his river palace.

Noam Livne

Shells was inspired by the prompt to look at different objects in the home, specifically by my wife's box of seashells.

light-imbued at midday –
by teatime sadly
straining for the tide.

Light-imbued at midday,
my feet were kicking sand
straining for the tide.
In shells’ faces

my feet were kicking sand
and they laughed.
In shells’ faces
the sea was frozen fresh

and they laughed,
by teatime sadly.
The sea was frozen fresh

The Magic Patio
Noam Livne

The magic patio was inspired by the prompt to think about a favourite room in the home. It's a mixture of real-life experiences, thinking about how I'd like those experiences to have been, and imagination. Overall it's fully an imaginative rather than autobiographical poem.

When the sun’s throat is light
and it sings the day in
we set the table with books,
coloured pencils in a tin,

globe, compass, paper,
skeleton leaf from the park –
after maths and French
we’re making a special bookmark.

We chop the salad,
set the table for lunch:
pumpkin with watermelon
and almonds that crunch

wash up, play darts,
polish our shoes,
sing and dance with the radio,
talk about the news

till the air cools down
and evening looms
on the cacti’s skin
and in rush hour fumes

but at night I sit and hum
wrapped up warm and alone
along at full volume
with the song of the moon.

I feel like part of the furniture
Lytisha Tunbridge

I had them all, early on
The naughty sent to me, whittling
The excited bounced up and down
Dreamers sprawled all over
Serious ones up and down as per
The anxious worried they were doing it wrong

Some were hairy
Some were smooth
Some were rough
Some were silken
Some fresh as the day they were born

I’ve been here silently supporting them all
bearing their issues equitably
though they only ever remarked on my absence

Until the change

These past few years have been different
With my creaking joints, I worry about falling apart
Will I ever get to retire, to sit and watch dust motes?
I swear these weights have increased
though I seldom bear them now
Or maybe that’s just me ageing

This poem came from an exercise writing about, and from the perspective of, an object. I mixed in some thoughts on the invisibility of ageing.

I feel it in my deep heart’s core
Lytisha Tunbridge

I want to wade out
out just so far
to where I feel embraced
held and caressed

I want to inhale deeply
feel the wild air
fill my nose, my mouth, my being
with fresh

I want to float
supported not swaddled
surrounded not cocooned
with the edge of unknown

I want to fly
across the tops of waves
catching the push just so
lifting me back to shore

And I want to wade out
out just so far

This poem was inspired by the line from The Lake Isle of Innisfree which is used as the title. My place is the sea.

Midnight, All A Glimmer
Gail Webb

This poem arose like a living, breathing creature when we looked at places and moods , read “The Lake Of Innisfree” by W. B. Years and reflected on how poems can take us to a place we think of as home.

after W. B. Yeats

When the day is fading, some embers still burning,
it is this time I will rise up
pushing onto all fours,
crested body shifting, appearing
above the hills where I had rested, hiding
in their form, until the fire in me was smothered.

Moon glimmers above a mirror ocean
warmed with flowing Gulf currents;
stars appear as tiny diamonds
sewn into a silky voile,
spreading across the bay; oh the night
brings a peace of dreams.

So midnight is here and I am fully awake,
a sleeping dragon no longer; safe to emerge,
to reclaim the beauty of this place.

Gail Webb

We chose an object to write about. This cushion was sewn by a very dear friend of mine who died five years ago. She had supported my daughter and I at a very difficult time in our lives and ,later, she made a set of lovely cushions for my daughter to take with her to university.We still have them in our respective homes, a constant reminder of such love and thoughtfulness.

Square, fluffy cushion, soft feathers, forgiving to the touch
pink blooms, vintage print, daubs of blue, green, yellow
a pillow full of promises,
balancing, placing, repositioning.

Pink blooms, vintage print, daubs of blue, green, yellow
a farewell to childhood, a remember-the-times,
balancing, placing, repositioning
well, that’s the story I will tell if asked.

A farewell to childhood, a remember-the-times,
I had not expected that.
Well, that’s the story I will tell if asked,
I imagine you picking out each button.

I had not expected that
a pillow full of promises
I imagine you picking out each button,
square, fluffy cushion, soft feathers, forgiving to the touch.

Writing Room
Gail Webb

In one session, we thought about different rooms and whether “home” was a building, a place, a country, or perhaps a feeling we carry with us. I chose to write about something which has helped me get creative, but which is also a way of dealing with the “ empty nest” . Virginia Wolf famously talked about the importance of women having “a room of one’s own” and for me this has been so valuable.

A small bedroom, full of teddies,
rainbows and horse rosettes –
unrelenting pink brocade wallpaper,
pink painted walls, a sheepskin rug.
Later, I paint the alcoves a deep blue
to rest my eyes on, knowing it will help.
When I step in there, the new space,
a writing room, I am home,
happy, surrounded by you,
with parts of a new life moved in.

The wooden sewing desk
from Nan’s front room, drawers full of buttons,
is now supporting old hopes and dreams.
On the wall,Walter de la Mare
swings his moon poem above my head;
Dylan Thomas recites lyrical rhymes
from the narrow bookshelf,
Sylvia Plath reminds me of myself
and a chorus of young poets jostle;
it is getting busy in here, I had better get on.

Let me thank you,
for listening to tales fantastical,
for holding my hand,
leading me here to this place.

Home Town
Anne Murphy

Belfast was the beginning
I knew the streets and shops, my mother and father
Then soldiers on our streets
The stuff of six o’clock news reports

I knew the streets and shops, my mother and father
The Troubles when I was seven
The stuff of six o’clock news reports
I left at twenty one

The Troubles when I was seven
The ring of steel, roadblocks and searches
I left at twenty one
I wanted to get away

The ring of steel, roadblocks and searches
Then soldiers on our streets
I wanted to get away
Belfast was the beginning.

I enjoyed experimenting with the pantoum form in an early session . I’ve used that form to frame these poems.The Keys poem came from discussing objects connected with home . The Home Town poem came from writing about Belfast my home town.

Anne Murphy

I am the keys to this house
Slid under the mat
Posted through a letterbox
Tied to a piece of string

Slid under the mat
No need to change the locks
Tied to a piece of string
The door closed last thing at night

No need to change the locks
Beautiful stained glass panels
The door closed last thing at night
Two locks - Yale and Chubb

Beautiful stained glass panels
Posted through the letterbox
Two locks Yale and Chubb
I am the keys to this house.

This place.
Sam Gray

I wrote this, early one morning in February before the session on hometown, trying out a prompt I was going to use with the group. Sitting in my living room under a blanket, looking out on a dark garden as my sons, dog and partner still slept, I ‘free wrote’ from the word ‘hometown’. It came in a rush, I didn’t censor and what surprised me was the pride and sense of identity I have in Nottingham, I wasn’t conscious of the strength of my roots here before I wrote. I noticed too that the writing was full of light and shade, of contradictions and opposites.

This is the place I was born, full of shadows and love. A place of breaking, mum here, dad there. This is a place of family, of fallout, its roads lead towards and away. Old streets echo laughter, ghosts stand next to crumbling walls, women linger on corners. Place of my childhood, safety and danger, darkness - and light spreading warm in the sheltering leaves.

This is a place of teenage crushes, breakups, soft rain and adventure. Boundaries pushed too far, not far enough. A place of magic, soulmate, summers. Cigarettes and drinking, our minds opening wide under trees of midnight green. A lifetime of friendships, years bound. We are bruised daisies looking for sunshine, grown in the same field.

This place is the home of my children, a place of their changes. Life unfolding, apart, together. Our family. This is a place to escape from, to resist. This place is familiar, the known and incomprehensible. It is a place steeped in sadness, laced with hope. A place of hospitals, cemeteries, pain and recovery. Birth, death, birth, death. Memories pulse, scars throb, gentle, indelible. There are those here I will never leave. This place is part of me, who I am, who I’ll always be. A place full of shadows, of love.

My Key
Sarah Sutton

This poem came from the workshop on rooms. I have created a writing room at the bottom of my garden in rural Leicestershire, which I have found to be my panacea over the past twelve months.

Bare feet glazed with dew.
Gilded by the blushing sunrise, I unearth my key.
Everything is somewhere else.
And I am free.

Mewling buzzards ascend thermals, unrestricted in this frozen time.
Tentative steps in unfamiliar territory.
Everything I need to flourish, is within my reach.
Close enough, enough.

Vermillion leaves bask in the pomegranate sunset, as the past is released.
I am closer to the dawn.
Everything else doesn’t matter.
The world holds its breath, while nature sighs with relief.

Andrea Lucy-Hirst

Lockdown and to be free; the push to go forward and the pull to keep safe - the question is how far?

Slow sounds by the shore
sifting, shifting
the push, the pull
the nod of each pebble
the rub of the sand
cold toes flinch then
wriggle in for more
finding their freedom
the sting of salt
inching in further
till only the brave
know when to halt

Andrea Lucy-Hirst

Probably echoes of the 1930’s and the Great depression; the shout of “Come in” is an allegory through out time.’ He’ could be ‘she’ or ‘they’- we all need a home

He stands in the doorway
eyes downward, pocketed hands
in patched jacket, tired look.
“He’s here” the girl shouts
“Come in” his eyes widen
steps over to a clamour
of warmth.

Its teatime and she
hands him a buttie
His mouth waters and
its gone in two bites.

“Hello bugalugs, I’m
your Auntie –“Eh just
look at him, thin as a wraith,
we’’ll sen have him reit”

GLIMPSE OF THE WORLD (My old stamp album)
Angela Reddaway

A smallish green book, showing much wear and tear
Memories magical, flooding my mind
Evoking a need to know what’s out there
Excited to learn about what I might find

Memories magical, flooding my mind
Tiny wee images, depictions of clarity
Excited to learn about what I might find
But a need to maintain my own insularity

Tiny wee images, depictions of clarity
Revealing a world of strange lives to unravel
But I need to maintain my own insularity
Stay safe in my home until ready to travel

Revealing a world of strange lives to unravel
Evoking a need to know what’s out there
To stay safe in my home until ready to travel
With a smallish green book showing much wear and tear

Response to Snowdrop Poem by Louise Gluck
Dawn Hartley

During a workshop we read the Snowdrop poem written by Louise Gluck and was asked to write a reply to her poem and I found myself connecting emotionally to the poem and writing the following response.

Dear Snowdrop,

I understand despair,
I too was surprised,
Yet secretly relieved when I survived.
I knew I wasn’t quite where I needed to be,
but much better now the Winter had passed.
Spring and Summer are my seasons,
When I breathe again,
No longer suppressed or hidden,
The sun brightens the sky and warms the earth,
Melting the coldness away.
I can feel life inside of me again,
The winter numbs me to the core.
Snowdrops give me hope.

Innisfree in England
Ann Parker

Written during a session about our connection to places. A memory of a childhood escape.

I would arise and go now and then, and then again.
Running to the station and leaping on the train.
To greetings by the seaside and the ride way up the hill,
To clouds and hills and shadows and the space which is there still.

I would arise in childhood, when the way was barred to me.
Escape was just back garden. Not the hills above the sea.
The pond was dad-made concrete, not the cow pool and the gnats -
A place of stagnant water which matched my teenage angst.

But the fields, the roofs, the sky are there, forever all around.
The golden gorse of summer and where buttercups abound.
A green and yellow country always under a blue sky,
Space defined by seagulls, today and years gone by.

If not now
Sarah Dale

When did I stop playing?

Was it when adults said, go and play, meaning
leave me alone?
Was it when going and playing meant being at the mercy
of the pitiless mob that was other children?
Was it when teachers instructed
write a story or draw a picture after handing out
blank sheets of cheap paper to children in rows?
Was it when I understood there was a right way
and a wrong way
to do everything?
Was it when I learnt things had to have a point?
Was it when work became the more important word?
Was it a tone of voice?
A facial expression?
A look?
Was it when everyone agreed, relieved and pleased, that I was a good girl?
Was it when I passed exams, took on a mortgage, took pride in professional,
had children of my own?

When will I pick up where I left off,
before I was so rudely interrupted?

Note: this came from a session when we looked at the names of rooms, having an interesting conversation about the living room versus lounge versus sitting room and I thought about why I call ‘my’ room at home my ‘office’ and whether I should change it to the Playroom or the Writing Room. Still thinking!

Ghost rooms
Sarah Dale

The guest room
is my father’s first bedroom,
unchanged since he was carried out
on a stretcher.
His childhood over, for the second time.

His uniformed father stares, half-smiling,
forever handsome, the hero
on the mantelpiece.
He doesn’t see me,
however hard I look for signs.

Downstairs, grown-ups and the distant telly murmur,
whilst in taut darkness, I breathe
the air’s cold memory, absorbing invisible
quantities of calcified grief.

Years pass. He builds extra rooms on our house.
Half a kitchen and a single bed,
an emergency exit door that leads nowhere.
Half-ready for her.
Half-believing it would work.
Only half-wanting it to.
In the end, of course,
she dies.
Even that doesn’t resolve matters.

Note: this came from the session thinking about our home towns and childhood homes.


Great course, if remote delivery was so good I can only imagine the quality of the zoom meetings

The course with Sam in Nottingham has been one of the best writing things I’ve done EVER

I found this course reflecting on Home created a series of lightbulb moments. I found writing for wellbeing a very different experience to other writing sessions, in a positive way. Thanks to Sam Gray for her gentle, effective leadership of this group.

Thank you for today's stimulation.

I really enjoyed that format that we played around with... I think you are doing an absolutely fantastic job facilitating this group - it’s been one of the best things I’ve done. Thanks.

Thank you too for your lovely Weds morning class, so nurturing and thoughtful - the sessions have been really good for me at this time.

I really enjoyed that first session.

I would love to do more workshops, so please let me know when you do some more.

I am really enjoying the course. Writing is my way of expressing myself, I am really passionate about it. I had a poem published in an Anthology this week about Mental Health.

I am really enjoying these sessions. I really hope you know how much you are appreciated. Your facilitation style is quite unique - you are so generous and so very capable with all your knowledge about wellbeing, groups, people, poems, writing

I shared the poem that came from my chair at an event last month. :-) I’m never sure where these things come from - they just pop and form themselves. After years of formal writing - bids for grants, ongoing grant-aid reports, minutes of meetings, research reports – it’s actually very very liberating! Really enjoying the sessions

I absolutely adore attending your sessions face-to-face or by zoom as I find a different side of my writing unfurls under your guidance, and would like to say a big thank you for making your sessions such a tonic. These Wednesdays have been such a breath of fresh air and it is such a lovely group

It’s all gone too quickly! I have enjoyed it and like you will miss it. Thank you so much for all the prompts and for your support.

Thank you so much for your work running this course, I have loved it and really awakened something in me creatively.

Thank you for the lovely sessions you created, I felt so welcome and looked after. I am in awe of the writing everyone has produced thanks to your guidance.

This group and particularly your facilitation has meant an awful lot to me over the six weeks - there are no other words other than Thank You

Thank you again for such a great course, I has really been a much needed breath of fresh air, I’ve also been inspired to start journaling to incorporate what we have been working on.

It was an excellent course. Sam is very encouraging, positive and u beat but without rushing us. She made each session seem like a coffee chat while unobtrusively keeping an eye on the time so we did all that was planned and finished on time. I joined the course as I had met Sam a few years ago and thought it would be good to see her again - and it was.

It was a little odd on account of zooming, although this is the new normal. I think it worked well for all of us. Just at the end - as is true of other groups, I was among those wishing we could have all gone for a coffee - but then some of us might not have got there at all, never mind the covid

Sam certainly qualifies for her gold star!