Mouthy Workshops: Dean Atta

4 Dec

20th November 2015

The associate Artist programme came finally into being: three great external artists have come to Mouthy and will join the crew for the rest of the year. Their role will consist in supporting our poets, helping them growing and, of course, we want them to become part of the family!

Among other things they will also lead our weekly sessions, showing their  exciting views on poetry. The first artist to do so was the amazing Dean Atta, that lead one of my very first workshops and that will always have  a place in my little heart for that . Apart from being an excellent published poet (go and have a look at his website at ) he’s a lovely human being that brings with him calm and harmony. The comments of our Mouthies at the end of the session all agreed on one word: peace. He’s one of those people that take care of your inner self without knowing it, without any effort.  So it’s time to share with you the experience of that workshop, giving you some tips to recreating the exercise at home if you’d like so.


List poems were the focus of Dean’s workshop. OK, now.. what is a list poem? As I discovered, ‘list poem’ can mean a looooot of things. It can be really just a list of things or sensations; it can be a numbered list or a plain list; it can be messy, it can be tidy: even your shopping list can become a list poem if you work on it with the right dedication. It is great, isn’t it?

So, Dean’s session. We looked at some wonderful list poems to understand how they worked and then we tried to create one ourselves. The first was ‘Ten Things About Me’ by James Turner, a numbered list poem that aimed o describe the poet’s life in ten sentences. We read and enjoyed it, talked about its strengths and weaknesses, and then moved on writing ours. The only rule was keeping the first words of the original poem and adding to them personal content. The structure of our new poems then would be:

  1. I was born..
  2. My name..
  3. My longest love…
  4. I have a terrible…
  5. I feel safest..
  6. I am a free person because..
  7. I am not a free person because…
  8. Best place is..
  9. Best time is..
  10. (free line)


We were encouraged to practice this kind of exercise with every poem that had a particular grip on us. My question was ‘How can we choose?’ -everything was triggering something inside me.

An entire book would not make justice to the beauty of those poems and of Dean’s session in general. I’ll leave you with the titles of the poems we practiced, so that you can have a go if you feel inspired!

  • ‘Ten ways to avoid lending your wheelbarrow to anybody’ by Adrian Mitchell
  • ‘Ten ways to avoid hearing your dad say sorry’ by Keith Jarrett
  • 34 excuses for why we failed at love by Warsan Shire
  • ‘Freedom of love’ by Andre Breton
  • ‘She loves you like’ by Jack Underwood
  • ‘I come from’ by Dean Atta
  • ‘My people’ by Kim Moore


Good luck with your list poems guys, and stay tuned for next blog!







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