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Mouthy Are ‘Stars!’ say’s Nottingham Post

7 Jul

Great to see @mouthypoets finally get into @nottinghampost through it’s amazing work via #spokenword #educators @ioneyiscreative aka Ioney Smallhorne, Hayley green, Jim Hall, Stephen Ashburn and Kai Müller! have been doing in local schools.

Mouthy Poets Workshop – Ms PoPOW’s weekly blog entry

7 Apr

Things a title can do

A title is, in essence, a first impression. Like a lack of eye contact or a floppy handshake, if the title of a book doesn’t instantly grab your attention, you’re probably not going to want to find out more – unless of course there’s something about a verbal floppy handshake that appeals to your individual reading taste. Although poetry/novel writing shouldn’t be all about the commercial side of things, publishers will be thinking about the ways to make your book stand out on the shelf. It’s also an excellent opportunity to use all of your writing skills to create a title that says something pretty cool.

We had a think about the function of a title:

  • summary
  • retrospective
  • intriguing
  • misleading/irrelevant
  • can be pretentious
  • shines a light
  • looks nice (font)
  • memorable
  • hidden meaning
  • punchy
  • incite questions
  • layers

We looked over a list of the titles of Poetry Collections and each picked out our favourite and least favourite. Then collectively we picked out these four titles:

  • After the Dancing Dogs
  • The Second Child
  • Sunday at the Skin Launderette
  • Yoik

We split up into four different groups – taking one title each – and had a chat about why it did or didn’t work well as a title. Then we did a five minute free-write to brainstorm some ideas.

Writing Villanelles

The Villanelle is an interesting form because it repeats two lines several times throughout the stanzas so once you’ve got those two, a lot of the poem is already written. The skill here, however, is creating something that works as a cohesive, creative poem within the strict rhyme scheme.

“The highly structured villanelle is a nineteen-line poem with two repeating rhymes and two refrains. The form is made up of five tercets followed by a quatrain. The first and third lines of the opening tercet are repeated alternately in the last lines of the succeeding stanzas; then in the final stanza, the refrain serves as the poem’s two concluding lines. Using capitals for the refrains and lowercase letters for the rhymes, the form could be expressed as: A1 b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 A2.”

(See more at:

We looked at Seamus Heaney’s ‘Villanelle for an Anniversary’, Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘One Art’ and Dylan Thomas ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ and discussed what it was we liked and didn’t like about them. We thought that there is even more need for the two repeated lines to be strong because there will be more attention drawn to them.

Then, returning to our original groups, we each wrote a Villanelle under our chosen titles and collaborated to orchestrate a performance of our work to the rest of the group.


We played a game of Consequences in order to brainstorm potential title ideas. For those of you who don’t know what this is, we basically had to write a definite article, fold it down and pass it on, then an adjective, fold it down and pass it on (and repeat this subsequently), then a noun, a verb, an adjective and a noun.

This was what mine said:

“The bohemian pleb runs grimly… cats.”

– So this might be a bit of a long shot but the general consensus was that ‘bohemian pleb’ sounded pretty nice.

Here were some of the other phrases that we liked the sound of:

“The petulant leotard.”

“The fragile apple.”

“Snobby nerves”

– Apart from enjoying the strange combination of words that erupted out of this exercise, it showed us how important it is to get the balance right between the familiar and the surprising when creating a title.

Top Nine Feedback Points from SST6 Drafts

18 Feb

The idea of feedback and helpful criticism has been really hot at Mouthy the last week. So here is a collection of Deb’s common feedback points given on the SST6 poems. Think about these when writing or redrafting your poems to get them as tight as possible!

1) Form and Concision.

Look at every stanza in your poem as a unit of meaning; an image, an event, a tone – each new stanza changes the event, meaning, image or tone and looking at line breaks a highlighting elements on these. This enables you to cut out repetition, tighten up images, reorder sentences and ask yourself – what do I actually mean here or what is the most important point in this unit? Is this unit important at all?

If your poem feels unwieldly, like it’s got more words or longer sentences than it needs, try playing around with a more rigid stanza formation.

2) Word Choices.

Get out the thesaurus and ask yourself if there are more accurate/original options for words – this gives you the opportunity to out every word in the thesaurus and make sure you have chosen the best, most rhythmic for your poem. Each word has slightly different tones and add a layer of impact to the poem. Spending more time over word choices will help you tighten up certain phrases and images.

No clichés! You have a unique set of experiences and perspectives which people want to see in your poems! If you find yourself using a word-out phrases, challenge yourself and ask  – what do I really mean? Then brainstorm some alternative metaphors, similes and images. You can also try to put each word of the cliché in the thesaurus and come up with a more accurate and original alternative.

3) So What?

What’s the point of including this? This is a question poets and performers have to ask themselves a lot. Maybe a free write explaining this would help you pin it down. Or try drawing a diagram of use different characters and images in your poem and what they represent to you. Another thing you can do is work in small details that allude to a bigger picture of what the poem is about or its central metaphor. This is especially important at the beginning and ending of your poem.

4) Choosing a Title.

Read this post about the different purposes of a title. After reading this, make a short list of ten titles, then you can go back to them after editing your poem again. You could talk to other people about which they think works best or even set up a Facebook voting poll to choose the right one.

5)  Get Specific.

Instead of using undefined ideas or ambiguous sentences, give specifics. ”Stop what you’re doing” – what are they doing? The washing up, scratching their arse, drinking their macchiato…? A specific reference will tell the audience more about what kind of poem you are creating.

Try to show instead of tell, through images and examples. For instance, rather than saying ‘she is losing him’ replace the generalisation with examples – “she is forgetting the smell of the toast he makes her”, “she is losing the creases in the shirts he washed for her”.

6) Poetry Doesn’t Have to Rhyme.

Watch out for rhymes. It’s easy to get caught up and be lead by the rhyme rather than the meaning, which sounds lovely but can make the meaning not so clear. Have a look at your strong rhyming sections and ask yourself: is this what I really mean? Are these the most accurate words for my feelings/story or am I just choosing them because they rhyme? Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme – go for words which convey exactly what you want to mean rather than have a particular sound.

7) Grammar.

Consistent what tense and person perspective you are writing in. Make sure it stays consistent throughout, unless it is completely deliberate and changes for poetic effect. If you want to carry a sense of immediacy and personal honesty, stay in the first person. Also

8) Cutting.

If you have really strong particular lines or images, consider cutting out some of the less strong ones to let the vital parts shine and be taken in by your audience.

9)  Characters

If your poem is very long or has lots of different characters, this can be confusing for an audience especially if you use a lot of ‘he’ or ‘she’ or ‘they’. Try drawing a diagram of the different characters and the relationship between them or bullet point the action of the poem. Then redraft your poem to make sure these are clear from what you’ve written. Ask other people to listen and check that they’ve understood so you know your audience will follow.

~ feedback by Debs, compiled and edited by the Creative Placements

Top 5 Poetry Teaching Tips

26 Jan

1. Before a workshop kicks-off, take a moment to remind yourself why you are doing this. (I find myself, for a specific example, going through this process everytime I walk into Djanogly’s reception)

2. Be aware that just because a participant is outwardly quieter than others, doesn’t mean they don’t have something to contribute to the discussion/situation. Explore techniques that can involve everybody in the room.

3. Plan hard but be ready to change everything you planned.

4. Encourage specificity in everything. On the page, in a response. ‘So, why exactly did you like the way he performed that poem?’

5. Bring as much of your personality into the space as possible: don’t be afraid to be you, even as a teacher. This means something to you. Show it.


Arts Training

22 Jan

Hello all,

As all us interns are looking for training, we thought it would be helpful to upload some helpful websites to the blog – this will keep developing – please please add any you know to the list!

Ideastap –

Arts Jobs –

Audience Agency –

Creative Choices –

Arts Professional –

Trinity College –

The Mighty Creatives –

Arts Award –

Writing East Midlands –

Nottingham Writers Studio –

NAWE (National Association of Writers in Education) –


What to Read?

20 Dec

What to Read?

We recently went on an Arvon course and this is the reading list poet, Pascal Petit gave us, feel free to have a look…

Writing A 1st Draft in 4 Easy Steps…

16 May

Hey Mouthy & Anyone else who ever wants to write something…

 There are so many ways you can approach generating writing, and my main advice is try all of them to optimise your chances of finding the one that works for you… But here is my (Debris’) main process:

1. Freewrite: literally write without caring about it making sense or having punctuation or being sane. I just write non-stop, force through all my ‘I can’t think of anything’ barriers and get stuff down. Sometimes I give myself a topic, sometimes I look at a picture or an object as a stimulus but the main key is not stopping. So if I was writing about my dad I would just write EVERYTHING I know about him. I often find lists are the best place to start this process… 

Bifocal’s, neck-ties, a fractured pelvis… the way he clicks his throat, balances his slipper on his big toe as he watches Casualty on catch up… socks, holes, mustard, sandwich ham… gravy all over his Sunday best every Sunday…Bill and Ben the flower pot men. 99 Flakes. Lemon Ice. Ice-cream van music, ice-cream van change. Sainsbury’s shopping. Pop-tarts. 4-course toast dinners. Marmite. Nail clipping over the bin. Patting down the bin liner. Exacting the washing up. Exacting the drying up. Exacting the curtains before Coronation street and adjusting his pillow so it fills the space between his neck and the wall-paper that has been there long enough to peel and brown beautifully. 

….I keep going and going until I cannot go any further! I have literally not edited this at all, these are now my raw materials for a poem…


2. Read: I read as many poems by other people around this topic as I can. I can. I have collected masses of poetry from workshops, poets and conversations over the years. I analyse the structure of the poem and look at what elements I can take and use in the poem I am trying to develop. More importantly I ask myself over and over again – what am I trying to say? How am I trying to make my audience feel? Where is this being done successfully in these poems? What can I take, what do I leave? Here are some links to poems I might use for a poem about partenhood, fatherhood, parental relationships…

A poem about parenthood I was read by an amazing actor last week. 

A poem about a father child relationship shown to me by Roger Robinson at the Mouthy Arvon Residential 

-A poem about an important Mother-son memory that I read as part of my GCSE English Lit exam

3. Structure: I read over what I have written and decide what structure I want it to take. I might decide I want a clearer narrative, in which case I write more to flesh that out. But ultimately then I will put it into 

Stanza’s (paragraph’s) with the same 

number of lines in each stanza and 

with similar line lengths. The idea

of a stanza is that block of text contains 

one unit of the story; an image or an idea 

or a piece of the action… does that make sense? 


4. After I have done that, I have my first draft! And I can start playing with editing the poem. 

Does this help? Do you think you could try this? If you feel this doesn’t work?


And if that doesn’t work? The two other best ways of generating writing are a. talking to people and b. going to writing workshops like Mouthy and actually doing the exercises. But that works for me because I want to understand people, so it makes sense that being in a room full of them works for me a lot of the time. This is by no means your process, but I think by trying all those that are suggested to you – you should find yours eventually. 

I hope this helps someone!