The Man in Costa

cup-of-coffee-1328582-639x852Over the past month I have been immersing myself in the OCA Creative Writing course and working on a number of exercises designed to improve the skill of writing as seeing.

The process takes the student from observation and freewriting notes of what is seen, to carrying out a series of drafts to produce a poem.

An opportunity to try this presented itself one day whilst I was having a cup of tea in Costa.

In amongst the usual mid-morning commotion my attention was drawn to a man, sat opposite, reading a hard back book. The book appeared to have turned him to stone and provided a complete contrast to the chaos going on around him. I decided to
watch him for a while and discreetly take notes.

The observation provided four A5 pages of freewriting, and a series of drafts and re-drafts produced the following passage of prose.

 

It was his stillness that first attracted me, allied to the fact that he was reading a hard back book, not a laptop, or Ipad or Iphone.  A statue, immersed in the aromas of pastry and coffee and the sounds of clanking china and conversational din.

On the next table a young man shouts into his mobile, another man in a suit types frantically. Their table strewn with files and pieces of loose paper.

“What it is,” says the young man.

The man in the suit leans forward and their meeting continues.

Costa Man, glances over towards them. A momentary break in his concentration, then a return to tranquillity, back to dreams cradled by gentle hands.  A smile breaks across his face, followed by a nod of the head.  A turn of a page returns him to an oasis of calm.

Time passes, Costa Man displaying a focus rarely seen in these fast paced times.

Then, that’s it, he’s won. I can’t watch him any longer, I have a busy life to get back to.

As I get up to leave he looks up at me and smiles.

Maybe he knows.

 

Numerous re-drafts later and the following piece of poetry has emerged

 

Aromas of coffee and pastry mix with

clattering china and conversational din.

Costa Man sits transfixed.

Nearby a male shouts into his mobile,

another types frantically.

He glances momentarily, returning to a

book drawing a focus rarely seen.

His smile returns me to Bedlam.

 

What are your thoughts? Does the poem reflect what was observed and give the reader a sense of the scene being described?

Any feedback would be gratefully accepted.

10 Comments

I like the first draft. The poem does reflect the scene, and the beginning is great, but the rest is not so perfect. Altogether, it’s a lovely post.

Liked by 1 person

    Valentina,
    Thank you for taking the time to read the post and comment. I appreciate the feedback and will look at the rest of the poem. Thanks again.

    Like

      I really liked it. I just believe that a poem must be perfect, but that’s another subject. 🙂

      Like

      Valentina,

      I agree totally. The problem I see with my work is that it never becomes the perfect piece. Every time I look at a piece of work I always see something that can be changed. I am reading a book at the moment, Writing Poems, by Peter Sampson. He suggests putting a poem in a drawer for six months then coming back to it with fresh eyes. Thanks again for continuing the conversation.

      Like

Hi
I thought your prose piece captured the scene really well. I really felt like I was there. The only thing about the poem is that I felt you lost that sense of stillness that the man had.

Writing is really hard. I heard someone say that a first draft is the hardest bit and it’s where you collide with your own mediocrity, but after that it gets better each time you look at it. This was a famous writer talking as well. You’ve done the two hardest parts, writing the first draft and then showing it to someone. You’re braver than me!

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    Martin,
    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, and for the valuable feedback. Getting the writing out there early is something that I have made the conscious decision to do. I consider myself to be at the start of my writing journey so the more help and feedback I can get, the better. I have just been reading a piece in the book, Writing Poems, by Peter Sansom who says that first drafts of poems should be put away for at least 6 months, so you can come back to them with fresh eyes. I will be doing another draft (focusing on the stillness aspect) then putting it away for a while. Maybe not six months though. Thanks again for your input.

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Hi Dave, loved your writing as totally felt as if I was sitting there too. I already think you are doing a great job of transporting the readers to wherever you decide to set the scene. I look forward to your pieces xx

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Hi Davy D,
I like the process you described that takes you from observation through free writing and then to poetry. I think that could help a lot of new writers understand the sparseness of poetry and the significance of word choice.
That said, my critical feedback will be about specific words. ‘Transfixed,’ for example, leads me to believe there’s an object of the man’s gaze, but the narrator doesn’t reveal what it is until later, when the pronoun ‘he’ is used rather carelessly. (I wasn’t clear who ‘he’ referred to, since two other men were mentioned closer to the pronoun in this case.) But if the man is the subject of your poem, you’ll want to get his portrait just right, and I didn’t see anything in the poem about him being a statue or made of stone or any of that great imagery you mentioned above. It isn’t clear he’s the subject of the poem since so little time and attention are paid to him and the image he represents. He’s more like, one of many things you observed while in the busy coffee shop. I’d say you should use his portrait to create contrast.
I would also say the first two lines do exactly what you’d want – put me in a coffee shop, and the last line is quite powerful, so those are great as they are. The in between could, perhaps. use a little shoring up. Maybe fewer adverbs and either more adjectives or more descriptive nouns. “Male,” for example, isn’t very visual. Now, if he were a ‘young silk suit,’ or an ‘angry middle manager,’ that might make it more clear.
Just my two cents.

Like

    Sheila,

    And a good two cents it is too. I appreciate the time you have taken to read the post and comment. Reading your comments and re-reading the piece have highlighted to me a number of ways to strengthen the poem. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

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