Nicole Fordham Hodges blogs about Kaite O'Reilly's Writing Workshop: You Say Inclusive, I Say Subversive / 3 September 2012
I am a poet with a very undramatic disability. I go along to this performance writing workshop slightly nervous. Like gleeful energetic birds picking apart an old carcass, we get stuck into dissecting hackneyed representations of disabled people.
We trace stereotypes through the primeval forest of fairy-tales, find hunchbacked villains with the marks of evil, find sexless mermaids floating in heavenly bubbles, discuss their sex lives. And the Superhuman disabled person with extraordinary powers: a stereotype which is thriving in these Paralympic times: are they heroes, and for whom?
In classical dramatic structure, Kaite tells us, a protagonist must undergo a change by overcoming obstacles – be they inner or outer. This produces a satisfying dramatic experience. As George Bernard Shaw said: ' no conflict no drama.'
We go to our metaphorical or literal corners to write alternative stories for alternative disabled protagonists, which nevertheless would hook an audience. At least that is the brief.
I enter my perverse poet-y thoughts. I have M.E. It's an undramatic illness. I'd like to think up a place – perhaps a competition category, part of the Olympics. For people don't strive, aren't driven and don't necessarily achieve anything tangible. Not even happiness or kindness. But – and here I remember my brief – this won't provide drama, or change.
Is being a poet rather than a dramatist intrinsically linked with my relapsing health condition? I come up with no storyline. I have no hook. I always want to move deeper under the water, where it is still. I have a net which traps what comes and then I lay it out.
I throw in something else to ripple the water. Motherhood, plus invisible illness, plus thwarted ambition. But I don't like the turmoil. The waters muddy. I reach towards it, then let it go. I feel for a moment the excitement of drama.
We gather back together, but don't share our storylines for our new-born disabled protagonists. In a successful drama, says Kaite, the world of the play is changed by what happens. The room buzzes with change, in the secret characters growing in the notebooks of others. I'd love to know about these characters, see some of them on stage. Perhaps one day I will.
Kaite O'Reilly goes on to give away all her secrets, in a fascinating exploration of how Audio Description and BSL can be integrated into the very fabric of a text, used as powerful creative tools. I learn a new term: 'aesthetic access.'
But I'm still a poet. I give myself Aesthetic Access by allowing my thoughts to break into fragments. I sink into low energy places where narrative seems extinguished and imagery seems magnified. I let things be, where I have no energy to force.
Keywords: access,arts and health,chronic fatigue syndrome,creative writing,drama,m.e.