Obstruction #6: Obsessions Stuck in History


Session #4 started with Ron asking us what are the obsessions that ignite our writing. One of the catalysts, Richard Hugo, said that our obsessions lead us to our writing and to our vocabulary. Therefore, Ron asked us to list at least 10 obsessions or fascinations of the moment. He told us to be very specific, repeating the mantra no ideas but in things. We could not just say “love”, but say what is that we love. These are mine. They are very mundane, but it’s the truth.

  • Nature documentaries with David Attenborough
  • Italian Ravioli for £1 at Sainsbury’s
  • My relationship with my boyfriend
  • David Foster Wallace
  • My literary group back in my hometown
  • Halloween
  • My best friend was in the place of the earthquake in Italy yesterday
  • People in the tube
  • Lit magazines
  • Email check

Then he asked us to say 10 words that sound/appear a lot in our writing.

  • Eyes
  • Swallow
  • Hands
  • Look
  • Silence
  • Fuck/bloody (swear words)
  • Veins
  • Say
  • Grip
  • Knuckles

This obstruction was interesting because we did not just write down this exercises and then went straight to write the poem. After these questions, we discussed the poems about history and then Ron asked us to go back to the lists and to choose on of the 10 words we use a lot in our writing. This is the list that came out of all our chosen words:

  • Ventricle
  • Schadenfreude (a German word that expresses the feeling of pleasure at someone else’s discomfort).
  • Eviscerate
  • Insomnia
  • Treachery
  • Snapped
  • Losing (as loss)
  • Silence
  • Tenderness
  • Ethereal




Then, there was the moment to write the poem, Obstruction #6. These were the guidelines:

  1. Express contradiction, contrast, conundrum, dilemma.
  2. History is alive (dates, remembered places, names, memories, lyrics, facts…).
  3. Use one or more words from the lists above. Your vocabulary should appear.
  4. Future is dreamed, feared, imagined.
  5. Reckon with one of your obsessions. This must be the seed of the piece.


Here is the poem. It’s called Smoked Pancetta Ravioli. There are many things I don’t like in this draft. Other are important and means a lot to me, so I want to use them in my project to write other, better poems. The theme of migration is important. Other references are just a bit too cheesy and I don’t think they really fit the objective of the poem.

The last thing you may think about.

Before everything explodes.

Or falls down on you.

Yes, £1 Ravioli at Sainsbury’s.

It’s really as sad as that.


Policemen walk slowly around the tube station.

They carry weapons that seem

too heavy. Too difficult for them to use.

I try not to notice.

I do anyway.


On the 26th of October, 2016

The deep centre of Italy, somewhere

I’ve never been to

cages a big chunk of me.


And as I read David Foster Wallace on the tube

Surrounded by peope who look down at their own hands

My best friend is somewhere, probably tracing

lines and dots on the canvas

right at the centre of the earthquake.


It is really as simple as that: £1 Ravioli at Sainsbury’s.

I’ll have them for dinner. Giovanni Rana,

the best I could get. I miss Italy sometimes,

more often than I want.


I am okay. Policemen walk and try to smile at each other,

gripping their guns. I watch them.

A terrorist attack was avoided in Greenwich.

Thanks to special forces. Thanks.


But you can’t avoid everything. You can’t avoid earthquakes.

Italian media say it’s fine, no deaths.

Last earthquake, more than 200 died.

Italy were lucky this time.

A big chunk of me was lucky, this time.


My friend answers the phone.

She’s scared but she’s fine.

She’ll go to bed, put on her piijama, maybe

read David Foster Wallace. I will.


I miss her terribly as I miss

everyone. My boyfriend on the shores of Tuscany

my best friend in the greyish Helsinki

another looking over Toronto’s skyline

all scattered around like stones on the ground.


Migration is distance.

No one is safe.

Policemen in London’s tube screams the danger.

I could just think of the ravioli I’ll have

before everything squashes me.


We are far fro each other.

But this is the life we chose.

The price to pay to study, write, paint, play the flute.

We all hope our future will be our reward.




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