Friday 7 November Workshop Overview

14 Nov

Hello, I’m Sarah. I’m an English student at the University of Nottingham and I’m doing a placement with the Mouthy Poets. I attended a couple of workshops last year but I had my first experience of the workshop as someone on placement last week. It was off to a good start when I was introduced to cheers, and I hope that this enthusiasm stays with me through workshops to come.

The first exercise involved working in pairs to define words such as ‘respect’, ‘proactive’ and ‘support’. It was interesting as I had never really thought about defining words such as respect before. Deborah explained that we can use concrete nouns to describe abstract nouns such as ‘respect’ in our poetry to make abstract nouns have a clearer meaning. We then wrote our own poems about ‘Respect’. We were encouraged to write at least ten phrases on our own in only a few minutes. I found that Mouthy is really good at encouraging its participants to think quickly and write what comes, getting the most out of their writing time. We formed groups of four to pick our favourite lines, using the lines to make a poem together and perform it. The rapid turnaround from definitions to ideas to poems to performance really gives you a sense of achievement. I also enjoyed getting to know other poets through the group work. Our next task was in new groups of four to construct our own views on the Mouthy Poets’ collective opinion based on the words in the definition task, in order to reflect on the Mouthy Poet code of conduct.

After a break, we looked at the poems ‘The Story of Lava’ by David Allan Evans, ‘The Bars’ by D. Nurkse, ‘Snow’ by David Berman and ‘Some People’ by Rita Ann Higgins, debating our opinions and whether each poet used specificity well or not. We were then given one of the poems to adapt the specific references to create a poem of our own but keep the structure the same. Afterwards, we shared and discussed our poems in small groups, and it was good to hear positive responses from my group about what I had written. Then it was ready for the workshop to come to a close.

If I could take one factor out of last week’s workshop, it would be the fact that the Mouthy Poets are not just a group of poets: they are a collective. The environment in the workshop was supportive and by discussing the code of conduct the poets co-operated with each other to come up with shared perspectives. Also, despite much of the serious content in the poems, the room in the Nottingham Playhouse where the Mouthy Poets live on Friday evenings becomes full of laughter. I look forward to continuing with my placement and seeing how the workshops develop as the weeks go on.


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