Three versions of the real: Finding the human

Last but not least, this ultimate publication reviewing Gale Burns’ contribution rounds off the series of the three main pedagogical sessions celebrated in our 1st. Teachers Training Course (Normandy, 2017), which was kindly featured in the French magazine L’Inventoire by our colleague Danièle Petrés. Thanks to Danièle and our partners from Aleph-Écriture (Paris) for this valuable compilation

Gale Burns: «Finding the Human» and Transmitting His Story

Gale Burns

Gale Burns, a poet and creative writing teacher at Kingston University in London, hosted the last EACWP train-the-trainer seminar before the afternoon half-workshops.

Is it possible to pass on our history to others by relieving us of a burden or reclaiming the memory we have? The autobiography raises many questions relating to the transmission, in particular that of the place one occupies in his life compared to the others at a moment T.

That is why Gale Burns in his approach to the autobiography decided for his Seminar to begin with a practical exercise, plunging us directly into the heart of the process of building a possible narrative of life, perhaps to write it.

The announced program of Gale Burns is:

  • What do human beings bring of themselves in their writing?
  • What does a human being learn?
  • The role of listening and attention.
  • Writing about yourself.
  • Write to others Write “from the real”.
  • A chance to write.

Tell your story in 10 minutes to a person

In a process close to analysis, we are invited to tell our story in 10 minutes (by isolating ourselves from the group) to our neighbor. We will then hear his own, without interrupting him, as we have not been interrupted or commented on his history. The golden rule established from the beginning is the absolute secrecy about what has just been said to us.

After these intense 10 minutes, everyone is a bit upset but understood one thing: how do we listen to each other? Are we really listening to him or listening to him, already busy beforehand in interpreting what he has just told us, helping him or just “being there” and just hearing his story, allowing him to elaborate and Make it more real?

Tell your story in 20 minutes to another person

This time we are led to tell our story, always under the seal of secrecy to another person, but our age, chosen by the teacher. A different narrative is then elaborated, perhaps also in terms of the person we have in front of us, and who is substantially of the same age.

Find 5 words that define our identity

Having returned to the classroom, it is time to move on to exercises that will guide us to lay the foundations for a possible definition of ourselves at the moment when we give ourselves the space to reflect on it. We write 5 words. The next exercise will be to choose a word among the 5 from which to develop a short portrait in 5 lines.

Gale Burns and autobiography

If I decided to start this article restoring the workshop that Gale Burns animated, rather than to give more theoretical references, it is that it plunges us at the heart of the process of creation of the biographical restitution or Autobiographical, posing as a milestone the sincerity and the authenticity to reach to transmit something important, singular or vital. You do not run into an autobiography easily. This is often the subject of end-of-life proofreading, or, if the autobiography is undertaken in the middle of life, it is often more a narrative of experience of work or transmission of experience, Of the premises of a fictionalization of it through a novel. In this case, it is not useless to go through this type of listening technique in order to have access to information that is in itself inaccessible until then. Through simple exercises, Gale Burns brings us into his practice by experiencing at the outset our capacity of trust in the other (available in each of us provided that it is solicited). This benevolent listening capacity allows us to take another look at our own history, and to introduce already a choice of narrative path among the many that are available to us.

We connect to our own humanity

What I personally learned from this workshop is that our memory is infinitely mobilizable to make the narrative according to the people who are spoken to or according to its preoccupations of the moment. But more striking is the incredible power of speech shared in this secret between two people, which awakens us to a form of neutrality towards the other, particularly soothing. For it is thus: we are humans, and we feel human only in contact with the truth of other humans.

About Gale Burns

Gale Burns is a poet in residence at both the Sydenham Arts Festival and Kingston University, where he has teaches undergraduate and postgraduate creative writing. He convenes the long-running Shuffle poetry series in London, and was a 2012 Hawthornden Fellow. He is widely published with three pamphlets and a collection is due this year from Eyewear. His work has been translated into French (in the Sorbonne Literary Magazine), Romanian, Slovenian and Arabic , and he often performs abroad, most recently at a festival in Romania. He is the Vice-President of the European Association of Creative Writing Programmes and also practices as a therapeutic counsellor, working in the UK National Health Service.

 About L’Inventoire

L’Inventoire is an online magazine for anybody passionate about literature edited by Aleph-Écriture. It offers interviews with authors, suggestions to get you writing, educational lectures and literature columns.

An initiative from training centre Aleph-Écriture and supported by the European Association of Creative Writing Programmes (EACWP), L’Inventoire is open to writers, readers, teachers of creative writing and literature and librarians. L’Inventoire is a hothouse for literature, reflexivity and collaboration. /