January Challenge – 1/4: “Piotr Finds The Black Violin”

The January Challenge

Deadline For Entries: 25th January 2020

Winners Announced: SCROLL DOWN!


Background to the Project:

Over the course of the year, there will be a series of challenges that will hopefully see us build a collaborative story centred upon a Black Violin.

The Black Violin will end-up being published as a book of 40 poems.

Those of you that have been in the Cult from the start may remember my ‘aborted’ flight of fancy that aimed for us all to collaborate on a Poetry Novel – ‘The Poetry House’. In many ways, this is a similar idea but on a smaller scale – a poetry novella, perhaps.

To do this, we will use four of the year’s 12 Challenges in January, April, July and October, with the book containing the finished story to be released in December, all being well.

The key idea of the writing is that I am asking you to write poems that work as witness reports. In many ways the core story is the least important aspect – it is more how you describe what you see rather than what it is that is happening – the writing rather than the tale.

It has always fascinated me that ten people can see the same event and notice/focus on completely different details, and I am hoping that this is what will happen here – even though the details will largely be coming from your imagination.

Each of the four challenges will work in the same way:

  1. I will give you a very rough and scant-of-detail description of an event
  2. You must imagine yourself to be present, although as a witness, NOT one of those actively involved
  3. You must imagine and then write a poem of up to forty lines that gives your interpretation of what has occurred from your perspective.  These can describe everything I tell you and more, or concentrate on one minor part – you decide.
  4. You, as the witness, can be anybody or thing, you can talk about yourself if that helps too. (i.e. You could be a bird as easily as a butcher, you could be seeing the scene in a TV advert or hearing a child telling the tale in the words of a nursery rhyme.)
  5. These descriptions can be painted with a broad brush or focus on minuscule details – a description of a butterfly passing in the foreground is as valid as a chronological description of the events that were happening behind.
  6. Your forty lines may be used in many ways – a series of haiku would be as valid as a concrete poem or the redaction of a newspaper report. You decide.
  7. Supporting notes for your poem can be printed alongside it on a facing page  – if you choose, these too can form part of your narrative, if you so wish.
  8. At the end of each of the challenges, I will choose Ten of the poems that as a group work best in describing differing perspectives of the events.
  9. The Ten poems from January’s Challenge will be available and form part of April’s Challenge, and so on. i.e. They will provide part of the trigger for the later events.

The Challenge:

“A young man of 14 years is walking through a snowstorm. The road is in the countryside and is heavily rutted, patterns frozen into the mud showing the shape of tyre tracks. The boy’s name is Piotr. We don’t know the country or time in which he lives, but he is brightly dressed in homespun, traditional garb. It is snowing heavily, Piotr is hurrying home and slowly freezing. He sees something wrapped in scarlet cloth – like a papoose – runs toward it believing it is a baby. When he opens it, he finds it is impossibly warm and dry, but rather than a baby it contains a black, wooden violin. When he touches the strings it sings like only forgotten angels sing.”

Describe the scene, or part of it, in the form of a poem of forty lines or less. Supporting notes can be published alongside your poem on a facing page.

Email it to cult@hedgehogpress.co.uk

The Prize:

  1. The Forty poems chosen for The Black Violin will all appear in a book to be (hopefully) published by the end of the year.
  2. Everybody appearing in it will receive author copies
  3. Ideally I would like it to be performed in early 2021 at an event or if geography proves too much of an issue, perhaps we could record each of the contributors reading their work and doing something clever with ‘Media.’  Perhaps both, if it turns out well.

p.s. If this doesn’t appeal, in each of the three other Black Violin Challenges, there will be an additional alternative Challenge available to you – so you won’t be missing out.

I’m (belatedly) pleased to announce that the Ten Poems Selected for the first chapter of ‘The Black Violin’ are from:

  1. Andrew Strickland
  2. Anna Teresa Slater
  3. Callum Stewart
  4. Gaynor Kane
  5. Penny Hope
  6. Raine Geoghegan
  7. Simon Williams
  8. Tricia Osborne
  9. Valerie Bence
  10. Vic Pickup

The second Challenge will be for April, and I will have the first Chapter available for download before then.

Thank you to everybody, there were so many takes on this it was literally impossible to judge, and I have ended-up comparing what feel like my children (though more fragrant than the real things) with, err, pears and oranges.

I also need some sleep.


10 Replies to “January Challenge – 1/4: “Piotr Finds The Black Violin””

  1. It’s me again… Francesca… guess I’m being a bit thick here… but I can’t actually see how I enter the competition.
    Where/to whom do I email it to? In what format… double spaced/single spaced, as a docx or pasted into the bulk of an email? What additional information is want eg inspiration/ brief biography etc.
    Thanks hedgehog friends,

  2. I am JUST about squeezing into the deadline. What a fab starting point indeed. Challenging, but enjoyable to write a poem in response. Great starting point. Got me all prickly! 🙂

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