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Creative Uncertainty and Door to Door Poetry

With the degree show looming, everyone’s under increasing pressure to identify their practice and put together an impressive project. This has been making me increasingly uneasy, because not only do I have to draw together a fairly scatterbrained range of interests, but I’m also struggling to figure out what I’m going to do for a job once I graduate, and how my practice is going to fit into that – will I just be doing something unrelated with arts on the side, or will it be a central part of my career? And if so, how do I make my degree show project contribute towards that?

For the time being, I don’t have much of an answer. The most likely options seem to be:
1) making small games and commercially publishing them (however little for) in order to try to get a narrative design job
2) pushing the workshops/public engagement side of poetry (more on that in a minute) to work towards a public sector arts facilitation job (with Seven Stories, New Writing North, somewhere like that)
3) doing copywriting/content writing to make some freelancing money on the side, potentially feeding into more stable work in the future

The upshot of all this is that I’m being pulled in a lot of directions at the same time.  I certainly can’t carry on just picking and choosing whatever seems the most fun and manageable at any given moment, but having failed to really get anywhere on the above fronts has drained me of a lot of my enthusiasm, making it hard to get invested in any new projects.

So! No use being hard on myself. To counter all that moping, I figured I’d focus on examples of things that have been going well or have captured my interest for the next few blog posts, and see where that gets me. Case in point: cool poetry things.

I’ve been going into a local school and doing supervised afterschool writing groups, which has been fun and well-received. That’s what I’m up to tonight, in fact, so expect a post going into more detail on that front soon. Its been great, and as a way of helping people engage with creativity I think its very rewarding (for me and the pupils), and this reminded me of the practice of another poet – Rowan McCabe, the Door-to-Door Poet.

He’s a very talented poet (see video), which I why I was so excited to have him on-board for the Seven Stories/Late Shows event, but it’s the way he reaches his audience and engages with them that is really interesting. It’s in the name – he goes from door to door, knocking on people’s doors and asking to write them a poem. He finds his topics by talking to people and asking them about their interests/what’s important to them, and he does it for free (although he recently received some Arts Council funding to support his endeavours).

So far he’s done this in four  suburbs in the North East from Stockton to Darras Hall (which is close my neighborhood, out on the edge of nowhere). I really admire this work for what it does to bring poetry alive for people and save it from the stigma of being an art form owned by posh/dead people. The results are generally light-hearted or funny pieces which strike a really nice balance between parodying and celebrating the lives of the people he runs into (although he’s done some more involved pieces as well). I think this is partly because this is an easy and fun kind of poetry to engage with – certainly its a style I try to reach in a lot of my writing as well.

This isn’t something I’m about to go out and try to copy, but it has given me a lot to mull over in terms of making writing as a practice accessible and relevant to its audience. Its definitely an audience-first kind of practice. Food for thought.

 

In the Sound Studio 2

Session 2! I met up with Mike again to record some more poems with him in the sound studio. We had quite a productive session, and here are some the better recordings.
Questions From Facebook
Life Hacks
The Staff Are Striking

I also tried of my favourite poems by well-known writers. This bit was a lot of fun (-:
Yesterday I Failed by Carolyn Jess-Cooke
Macavity by T.S. Eliot

After listening back to the audio from session 1 (but before hearing the edited audio from session 2) I had mixed feelings about the quality of my performance in them. I didn’t think they were as good as some of the performances I’ve given onstage, anyway. So, when I found myself in the studio recording some audio for a children’s Christmas video I might be voluntarily featured in, I had second go at some of the session 1 poems as well.

For comparison – here is my recording of The Night Train from session 1, and the recording I did on my own after session 2. The audio quality for the second one is noticeably worse, but I tried to inject a bit more of the personality into it. I’m still not sure how I feel about the results.

Session 1 – The Night Train
Post Session 2 – the-night-train

In the Sound Studio 1

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One of the new and exciting things I’ve had a chance to do in the Culture Lab so far is record in the sound studio. I’ve had the induction now, so I should (in theory) be able to record things in there all on my own. But to get me started, I’ve had a few recording sessions with fellow CAP student Mike, using some of his kit and technical know-how to help me learn how to use a mic, and to help him get a feel for the studio.

It was a strange experience, with very different concerns to live performance. I didn’t have to worry about memorising my poems, or about what I was doing with my hands or expression, but I did have to be very aware of every tiny little noise I was making. Creaky chair? You can hear it. Clothes rubbing together? You can hear it. The tiniest of mouth sounds? Oh boy, you can hear them. It was a strange experience.

I’m not quite satisfied with my own performance yet – I reckon once I’ve gotten over the teething troubles of learning to perform in an entirely new context I’ll be able to inject a bit more life into these poems, like I would at a live gig. But for now, here they are! My first foray into recording my own work. Full credit for editing/cleaning up the recordings goes to Mike.

The Wolf That Came To The Door
The Tall Man’s Coat
Tsukumogami