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TESTT (Durham): April 12th

The New Adelphi (Hull): April 15th

Workshop Theatre (Leeds): April 17th

Hydra Bookshop (Bristol): April 18th

Derby Theatre: April 20th

Harrogate Theatre: April 24-25th

Ovalhouse (London): April 26-28th


London Book Launch at Ovalhouse, April 26th

York Book Launch at All Saints Church, April 29th

Small Fry DIY, Warrington, 2nd May

Spoken Weird, Halifax: 3rd May

Born Lippy, Newcastle 9th May

Shaken In Sheep Town, Skipton: 10th May

Find The Right Words, Leicester : 16th May

Queenie’s Coffee Nights, Huddersfield: 21st May

Gong Fu Poets, Coxhoe: 31st May

Verse Matters, Sheffield: 7th June

Slam Dunk, Hastings: 28th June

Word Club, Leeds: 29th June

Poetry Jam, Durham: 4th October

Saturday, 6 February 2016

20.16 Blog #2: Workshops through the looking glass

You stand in front of an audience, one of several poets who have stepped forth during the night.  You may be remembered, you may be forgotten.  If it’s a slam, you might win.  You might be the guest poet, and this is your job.  Better earn that crust.

Sometimes your throw our political, personal or funny poems and in return the audience act as a mirror, they reflect back with laughter, gasps, applause…or even stand up and walk out in disgust.  But sometimes they absorb, they remain still, they listen but they give nothing back.

I have always said, if you want to get better at performance poetry (and performance in general), perform as much as possible.  Gigs, slams, open mics.  Most cities are full of them, my context of York is no exception.  You can perform in front of the mirror as much as you like, it will reflect back your words and your stance and your politics but it won’t absorb like an audience.

But then, when you write, you pour in your thoughts onto your page.  It’s just a transition from thought to screen.  Like the mirror, it’s only reflecting yourself back in ink.

I’m still pondering the workshop from last week.  Not the one I led, the one I took part in led by Sally Jenkinson, our guest poet for Say Owt Slam #8.

The last workshop we held for SOS was way back in March 2015 with Jess Green, though we have always invited our guests to deliver a workshop, though it doesn’t always work for various reasons.

I started thinking about the people who came along to the workshop.  Some people experienced writers, some without much confidence, some totally new to the artform.  Handled marvellously by Sally, it was fun but also very interesting, a very minimal set of exercises leading to interesting results.

It got my reminiscing about previous workshops I’ve attended from poets like Jacob Sam-La Rose, Sophia Walker and Kirsten Luckins.  I travelled down to London for a free workshop with Apples & Snakes, and had mentorship from Hannah Silva when I was part of the Soapbox Tour.  Not to mention the hours and hours of workshops at NAYT’s Raising The Game events for working with young people in theatre.

Workshops allow you to bounce ideas around, to have input different to your normal perception of stimulus and writing, and then have alternate opinions in a room.  Much more productive than relying on an audience who see you as the evening’s entertainment rather than a brain/heart processing art.

When you write, you exist within the bubble of your head, the words and thoughts bouncing around, perhaps assisted by some music (at the moment it’s The Raincoats on my iPod) and interest explorations.  A workshop allows some breath and breadth, to explore someone else’s methods and styles, to get some thoughts from other people.  In Sally’s workshop, we shared our own personal ways and methods of writing, advice and experiences.

And in this way, we do reflect each other.  We bounce ideas off one another, and something surprising and refreshing can emerge. 

The looking glass is a gateway to another world.  But what does it contain?  Yoda states to the hasty Luke when he asks what’s in the Dark Side cave:  "Only what you take with you."

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