Online: Shakespeare: Provoking Modern Response in Verse with Berni Dwan

Online: Shakespeare: Provoking Modern Response in Verse with Berni Dwan

Dates: Sat 7, 14 & 21 Nov
Time: 10.30 am –12.30 pm 
Duration: 3 Days
Cost: €96/€84 members

Course Level: Beginner

All remote Irish Writers Centre courses take place on Irish Standard Time (GMT+1)

Whether you realise it or not, the works of William Shakespeare influence your own writing.

In this course, you will respond to Shakespearian challenges posed in King Lear, Othello and Macbeth, by writing your own poetry. You will be encouraged to juxtapose the dilemmas of these Shakespearian tragedies with modern day life.

It does not matter if you are not already familiar with these plays.  You are merely using them as a framework on which to build and create your own poems.

Just come along with an open and curious mind, and we’ll take it from there. The Shakespearian lexicon is great fun to play around with, and indispensable as a source of inspiration.

 

How will you do this?

  • You will shake up some plays to make them relevant to modern life – because they are. Do the Three Witches, for example, represent fake news or a group of old gossips who strike it lucky? We meet these Shakespearian characters routinely in our humdrum, daily lives.
  • The three plays deal with upheavals in society, reversals of fortune, rumours and uncertainties, tyrannical leaders, helpless and blameless victims, misogyny, racism, and narcissism – plenty of material to respond to in poetry, then.
  • You will read through excerpts in an upbeat way, relating them to songs, movies, TV dramas, and art in its widest possible sense, before responding with your own poetry.
  • You will also look for the comedy in the tragedy – and put some graveyard humour in your writing.

 Class 1: King Lear

The theme of this exercise is duty, as it links in with the ungrateful child as portrayed in Act 1 Scene 1.

The poetry writing activity here will involve:

  • Discussing what duty really means, especially in the parent / child situation
  • Brainstorming words relating to duty – differentiating between hard and soft words
  • Forming some rhythmic sentences using these words and ideas – you will look at a few examples here from established poetry and lyrics
  • Deciding on a working topic for an attempt at a free verse about duty
  • Writing the free verse. You can share this with the group if you want to. Either way, you will receive feedback from the facilitator on it via email after the class.

 Class 2: Macbeth

The theme of this exercise is pride, as it responds to the self-fulfilling prophesy as portrayed in Act 1 Scene 3

The poetry writing activity here will involve:

  • Discussing what pride really means, especially in connection with the self-fulfilling prophecy
  • Brainstorming words relating to pride – differentiating between hard and soft words
  • Forming some rhythmic sentences using these words and ideas – you will look at a few examples here from established poetry and lyrics
  • Deciding on a working topic for an attempt at a free verse about pride
  • Writing the free verse. You can share this with the group if you want to. Either way, you will receive feedback from the facilitator on it via email after the class.

 Class 3: Othello

The theme of this exercise is racism as a response to Othello’s elopement with Desdemona as portrayed in Act 1 Scenes 1 and 2

The poetry writing activity here will involve:

  • Discussing what racism really means, especially in connection with partnerships
  • Brainstorming words relating to racism – differentiating between hard and soft words
  • Forming some rhythmic sentences using these words and ideas – you will look at a few examples here from established poetry and lyrics
  • Deciding on a working topic for an attempt at a free verse about racism
  • Writing the free verse. You can share this with the group if you want to. Either way, you will receive feedback from the facilitator on it via email after the class.
Berni Dwan broadcasts about literature and history on Near FM 90.3. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, Cránnog, Irish Times New Irish Writing, The Blue Nib, The Galway Review, Southword, Crossways and Stepaway among others. Her Smock Alley Theatre shows Unrhymed Dublin (2016) and The Seven Ages; Like It or Not (2020) are observational. Her first poetry collection, Frankly Baby, was published by Lapwing Press in 2018. Berni came second in the Johnathan Swift Awards and was shortlisted for the Anthony Cronin International Poetry Award. She is the recipient of two grants from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland – one for a collaborative radio drama and one for an eight-part series on the coming of age novel.


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