Last night the last Find The Right Words before the summer, which means my last before I go off to uni in September 😥 It’s a bittersweet feeling, because I’m so sad to be leaving this regular poetry night that has been such a regular part of my month, and played such an important role in my development as a writer and performer… but it was a great show. This is less of a review, more a train-of-thought collection of feelings and ideas that came to me while I was watching the open micers and Buddy Wakefield’s incredible headline set.
Last night I really tried to pinpoint what it was about certain performances that I liked so much, so here are some of those ideas. In Buddy Wakefield’s performance, it was the way his dialect came through that really made it feel personal and direct and unique and broke down boundaries. It was how animated and energetic he was throughout the performance, the way he used movement in a way that mirrors his vivid and unexpected use of language. I noticed that in the open mic performances and Buddy Wakefield and in other poets that I like, a common feature is the use of an anecdote or a story or a specific memory as an anchor for a poem, as a trigger for memory and meaning – I realised some of my first and favourite poems are written in this kind of way. I think I appreciate these poems differently, too, like some poems the words wash over me and it’s nice don’t get me wrong but like anecdotes and stories and memories keep my attention better, I think. And I have also been thinking about how good artists engage the audience. One of the things I’ve noticed that’s most significantly different between myself and other newish poets and the more established, experienced acts is the ability to engage the audience, and I’m not sure if it’s just a skill that comes with time. But I have some ideas, I think laughter helps (and can work even if most of your work is serious). You can explicitly involve an audience by giving them a ‘chorus’ to join in with . You can unite people in breathing. You can directly address them in your poem. You can use common experience to make your work relatable.
Tangled thoughts, but I think they’re useful.
My dad told me this story once, about him and his brother going to art galleries. They’d start off at the same painting, and after a few moments my dad would move on. He would go around the whole gallery and come back to the beginning to find his artist brother still examining that same first painting.
I really empathise with my dad in that story. Like… I’ve never really got Art. I never know what to do in art galleries and could never understand how people could find so much meaning in a painting. So I recently, I started doing what I always do when I don’t understand things; I put it into words. At art galleries now, I wander around until I find a piece of art that I like, then sit down in front of it with a notebook and pen and write down everything I can see, everything it makes me feel, every question I want to ask about it… As well as helping me to appreciate visual art more, it’s a really useful writing prompt. (Here is a poem I wrote inspired by the work of Barbara Hepworth.)
Taking inspiration from other forms of art and thinking about the idea of ekphrasis has made me think a bit more about the blurred boundaries between different art forms and how subjective the definitions are. Like, when me and my girlfriend were sharing our love of Kate Tempest, it struck me that I thought of her as a poet whereas Kara thought of her as a rapper. And some of the poetry shows I’ve enjoyed the most have been ones where there is fluidity with the art genres. Jess Green’s Burning Books is performed with a live musical accompaniment; Jemima Foxtrot’s Melody involves seamless transition between spoken word and a cappella singing; and Paula Varjak’s Show Me The Money uses poetry and music as well as film and documentary-making techniques.
This blog is kinda about my development as an artist, so I suppose what I feel this means for me is that I want to try and experiment with different art forms, and take a more flexible attitude to art and The Arts. I’ve come up with three writing prompts inspired by these ideas that I am going to try, please feel free to use them too.
- Take a line from your favourite song (not the chorus or the hook, something from the middle probs) and incorporate it into a poem. Performance: you can sing or say the line.
- Visualise a scene, a place/event you remember really vividly. Describe it in a poem, as if you were constructing a storyboard.
- Take a poem you’ve written/are working on and read it over a beat or a piece of classical music. Notice how it changes the way you perform.
St. Ives is the bleached white Tate, the
hazy, colliding seasky blues and,
gaps in grey monoliths,
the soft green of Hepworth’s garden.
This is stone
in conversation, composed
so the towers may whisper over the heads of their bulbous cousins
who are cut along the natural grain
so voices may slip across the ancient lines in their skin –
life is not kept in
our faces when she reduces us to pure movement;
the swelling outline of a mother’s belly,
a dancer’s pulsing form.
We are far from the flat-faced Madonna and Child –
we never realised we were
detached, matching each other’s contours,
distant and close as art behind glass.
~Ruby Kelman, 2016
I have had one of my periodic bursts of inspiration and have decided to start blogging again. I had a mentoring session with Melanie Abrahams on Friday and she gave me so many ideas and so much energy for poetry, and I feel like I need to make sure I have a solid way of actually acting on them. So, I’m going to (try and) use this blog to keep track of my progress with those ideas, as a way of setting goals, celebrating my achievements and interacting with other artists.
This year I want to:
- make contact and engage with 10 poets/performers/artists and interview them about their own experiences
- see and review 5 poetry/theatre shows to inspire my own
- make a press pack I’m happy with
- enter 3 competitions
- perform somewhere new
So yeah. Wish me luck. Fingers crossed I’ll keep you updated.