Saturday, 17 April 2010

Street Poetry - Random Acts of Art

Just had a great time at the Street Poetry Workshop at the Spacex Gallery, run by the inimitable Liv Torc, and part of the Random Acts of Art project. It was a beautiful day for it, (the sky a literally cloudless blue) and ideal for checking out the nearby streets in search of words.
Having done five years of degrees all told with writing workshops forming some of one and a great deal of the other, and being a workshop host myself, AND being really busy, I don't often actually get to writing or poetry workshops. Which is a pity, because of course, they give one space in order to create that can be really refreshing and a context break away from the way in which one usually ends up working. And so it was!
The aim of the workshop was to write a collaborative poem about and inspired by the West Quarter, the historic and alternative/independent shops area of the city which is home to the Spacex Gallery.
We started off after an exercise involving commenting on each others shoes etc. (i.e. finding words inspired by them) and all trying to be scrupulously polite! with a drama-like exercise/game, all making up characters for each other, as makebelieve residents of the Quarter - and much hilarity and inventiveness ensued, including with a one-eyed glassblower, Roman re-enactor, Somerset settler, bouncer, dodgy gangster overlord and gangster's moll! Short pieces were written about chosen characters, and following that, haikus, some funny, some serious, inspired by the portraits of residents of the Quarter by Lady Lucy, one of the artists in residence for the whole Random Acts of Art project. We then all dispersed to find inspiration and words out of doors, into the West Quarter itself. And how magical that was - because strangely, as both an admirer and sometime practitioner of found text, concrete poetry, site specific text and art and related forms, and someone who loves the West Quarter, it had always been the kind of thing on my 'must do at some point' list. I.e., something I'd love to do, even mean to do, but would never get around to. So it was a real joy to just wander around places like Fore Street, looking in windows, jotting down words from posters or signs, half-catching sentences by passers-by, adverts and cards in windows, menus and labels...and really looking at some of the shop fronts and interiors, really paying attention to the lovely old architecture like that of Tucker's Hall with its fleur de lys railings, and the hidden stream on the other side, down below...absorbing the lively mixture, and so many details I always rush past and mean to make time for but never do. The luxury of legitimately dawdling and going in and out of all the corners and alleys, of spending time in shops I'd always meant to have a look in but hadn't the time to, and all the looking at little things and the delicious finding of random words and phrases that at any other time would be just playing, and almost as out of bounds as getting involved in an addictive computer game! It was seriously fun. I kept bumping into other participants, and we grinned as we crossed each other. So much so that at one point a man stopped me, and asked quite bluntly 'What are you doing? There's loads of you at it.' I explained it was a poetry workshop, and once I'd finished listing the places one could look for words etc., he just said 'Cool!' and walked off. By then I had so many fragments, it was time to get back to the Spacex and choose and order them! Which I did. It took surprizingly little time to order the found texts - a heard sentence, card in window, poster, signs, ads, and they seemed to make the five required sentences in a way I liked. We then wrote them in large letters on big paper strips, and finally Liv decided on an order - the tough job! and stuck them together in a large train like a huge snaky poster. They looked great, as everyone had different writing of course and had chosen different colours (green in my case). Liv then bravely mounted a ladder to stick it to the wall, and then read it aloud with great aplomb. And it sounded really good! Everyone had come up with some excellent sentences, and while all in different styles, it hung together really well, and even had some rhythm. We all had great fun and came up with a piece all were pleased with, with laughs, and much tea, coffee and biscuits too. All in all a really lovely afternoon. And I even met a delightful subscriber to Spoken/Written! - Anna Trussler of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen's Gallery in Bovey Tracey who was kind enough to keep us all in the tea and coffee. Big thanks to Liv for being such a great workshop host, to Anna and all at the Spacex for having us, and to Chris, Kevin and Marcus for being such good fun to work with!

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