My first Mouthy experience

22 Jan

This is the beginning of a series of blogs that I will be writing which will act like a journal of sorts, a way of recording the progress and experiences of the poets in the Mouthy Poets community. I’m still getting to grips with the way that Mouthy works at the moment so I thought that I’d start by sharing my personal experience of my first workshop.

I’ve never thought of myself as “Mouthy.” I’ve always been the quiet one whether that be in the classroom or in a group of friends. I’ve always thought of myself as lacking in self-confidence and self-belief, as reserved and introverted. I’ve also never confidently called myself a “Poet”. So, quite understandably, I was apprehensive about going along to my first Mouthy Poets workshop.

Amongst the usual nerves there was excitement, however. I was excited because I felt from my placement interview and from reading about Mouthy that I was going to love it. Quite simply, I love writing. I’ve been writing stories and poems for years. There is something about writing, when I really immerse myself in it, which somehow both shuts out the rest of the world and makes me feel totally in-tune with it.

I’m in the middle of my third year as an English student at the University of Nottingham and am often very busy with the commitments that come with student life. But it always distresses me that I don’t prioritise my writing more. It can always seem easier to hang out with my house mates or sit in front of the TV or browse the internet for hours on end. It’s definitely very easy to justify them when I’ve spent all day reading, thinking and writing essays. My writing routine is in one word… irregular. I might write thousands of words in one day, or a poem in an hour and then not write again for weeks, or even months.

It recently occurred to me that writing is not something that anyone is going to nag me about. There isn’t going to be a deadline. There is no contract, commitment or time constraint. So if I really want to do it I’m going to have to make it happen. I considered getting up at 6am every morning and writing before I start Uni work. But somehow I dismissed this before I even tried. And then I realised something that I think I had forgotten. Writing is so much fun! Forget the excuses; I’m doing this because I want to, not because I have to. There is no pressure! I want to take my writing seriously and I’m considering taking a Creative Writing MA next year so I can really focus on it. But I don’t want to forget along the way that writing is something I enjoy doing. This Mouthy Poets opportunity has come along at just the right time.

Everyone at Mouthy was so welcoming, warm and friendly that I found it impossible not to feel at ease. The atmosphere was positive, supportive and easy-going. We did a five minute warm-up exercise of writing a dialogue between two people in which we could only write two words per turn. Then we paired up and read out each other’s lines. Writing with some kind of restriction in place can encourage the mind to think more creatively and it was really interesting to hear what other people had come up with. We’d all been given the same task but there was so much variation in the ways that people responded to it. In a moment that I felt was wonderfully out of character for me I stood up with the new Mouthy producer, Charlotte, and we performed our dialogues to the group.

Then most of the group went off to work on their poems for the upcoming commission show, alone, or in pairs. This was good, I thought, because writing has always been a private act for me, so it’s good to know that we get to work in the space that we feel comfortable in. I joined a group of newbies and we spent about half an hour free writing along the theme of transformation. This was a really good exercise for clarifying some of the muddled half-formed thoughts at the back of my mind. There was something very cathartic about it too. I wrote about the process of transforming attitudes and opinions. I was thinking about ways to describe the point that the mind changes, and whether thought can be traced in that way.

It was great to share some of my writing with somebody else. We were told, NO disclaimers! We all knew that the free-write was not going to be perfect poetry. There are very few writers who wouldn’t want to cringe when reading something as raw and unbound as that. It was liberating to be able to write something and talk about it without having to worry about whether it was any good or not. We went through with our highlighters and picked out the bits that we thought we could develop later when we come back to it with fresh eyes.

All in all, I surprised myself by doing a lot more than I thought I could. Suddenly the stress of my final term at Uni doesn’t seem quite so bad. I grinned to myself like a loon for the whole walk home and quite alarmed my house mates by my gushing ecstatically about the workshop when I walked through the door. It occurred to me later that the current Mouthy theme of transformation is inadvertently a very fitting one for me to start with. I’m excited about the progress that I will inevitably make by being part of this creative community.


Natalie Popow



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