Poetry in Extremis


Written by Suyash Nepal

‘Poetry in Extremis’ conducted at Quixote’s Cove was a poetry workshop organized by Word Warriors. This two day workshop supervised by Eleanor Walsh or Ellie as we call her, started out with reading and discussions of poems by distinguished international poets, selected by Ellie herself.

These poems specifically focused on different forms of discrimination that people face based on their race, gender, class and other such social constructs. On the first day,  participants read and deliberated over these poems. We analyzed the poems, discussed their fine points and shared what aspect of the poem clicked with us as readers. Analyzing such great poems by distinguished writers under the guidance of an English PhD student with a ton of knowledge in poetry, we learned about various poetic devices that could improve the quality of our own poems. By reading different styles of poems, we also were able to learn various techniques and styles that best suit the specific theme of a poem.

While all the poems we read were amazing in their own right, I was inspired especially  by the poem titled “Nothing’s Changed” by Tatamkhulu Afrika. I was enchanted by the word play and the clever devices used in the poem to tell a tale of racial discrimination within South Africa and how even after apartheid was abolished there was no concrete change in the society. The poetic style used by the poet struck a chord with me and was successful in engaging me.

For day two, participants were asked to bring in a draft of their own poem with similar themes of discrimination and social injustice; similar to the poems we had had a discussion on. The poems brought in were read aloud by one of the other participants in the workshop after which all the participants had a discussion on the poem. The participants deliberated over the strength and weakness of the poem, and provided constructive criticism to the poet. As per the rule set by Ellie, the poet couldn’t defend their point or say anything while their poem was being discussed but could only respond at the end of the discussion. This helped the readers to judge the poem by itself and not what the poet intended for it to mean. The workshop ended after the discussion and deliberation on the awesome poems the participants had penned themselves.

During those two short days of interaction with fellow poets and poetry enthusiasts, I was able to learn quite a lot about poetry and how to read and write poems; though I myself stayed silent for the most part of the interaction session. The best part about the whole workshop for me was when I got to read the poem from the fellow participants. I learned from those poems as much as I had done form the poems from the international poets read in the previous session. In the end, I left the workshop with a trove of new knowledge and experience, and plenty of reinvigorated zeal to pursue poetry wholeheartedly.

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