Much of my job as a writer tutor is to bring inspiration into the classroom or workshop. Sometimes I take groups to galleries to look at another art-form, sometimes I bring an object or an image with me to challenge my classes with something new and engaging.
I have an office full of fascinating objects from a battered old trumpet to a boxing glove which I often use to promote response. Recently I used an object I had never used in this context. It always feels risky to use a new prop, but something extraordinary often happens in the gap between the object and the imaginations of those present. Explanations, stories and poetic responses start forming in an exercise I call, ‘interrogating the object’ where, with a few questions to start them off, people start writing.
Bringing an object into a neutral space subtly changes the environment and the focus. I am always astonished how the same object produces such different responses and stories.
My object for these recent sessions was a small bird carved and shaped out of animal horn; some found it to be a slightly repulsive but still interesting object, for others it had a kind of poignant beauty. I know nothing of its origins, age or the original artist. I just know it sparked off some extraordinary writing.