“In my mind the text is the greatest teacher. That’s how I teach classes. Good poetry is the greatest revelation. I guess what you can teach largely is a love of poetry, not only a love of poetry but a trust of poetry. One thing that keeps people from writing well or that closes people down is actually a fear of poetry, a fear of the freedom it constitutes. We all have internal censors so one thing a teacher can do is try to help a student contend with internal censors. Aside from teaching the craft which I believe in entirely you have to go easy in teaching, you have to judge how much a person is ready for and that calls for constant ability to read people that no one has all the time.”
– William Olsen, from Poets on Pedagogy
“The future is a weatherfront, and attempting to predict single lightning strikes is stupid and wasteful. Understand the future as weather, and yourself as standing on the shore looking out to the horizon. Breathe the air and watch the water. There are dozens of different systems acting on the approach of the future. In order to get a handle on what’s coming, you need to be talking to and working with and keeping an eye on many different fields. Not just “technology.” The future is also always social, and economic, and political, and many other things besides, and those things act on the path of the storm. And, if you’re standing on the shore, you know that there are a lot of storms out there, and any one of them could hit like a hurricane. If this sounds good to you, then, please, get to it. Because we’re running out of reliable early-warning stations.”
– Warren Ellis, via Orbital Operations
“I believe in callings. They come as Aces, like the clouds parting, the gift bestowed from above. But I also believe that callings require you to reorient your life and cut away anything extraneous. They are burdens as much as they are gifts.”
– Jessa Crispin, via Austin Kleon
Barbican Young Poets would like to thank the @forwardprizes for generous donations of Forward anthologies for our end of year session.
This evening, we spoke about the value of the programme, next steps, professionalisation and engaging with poetry for sheer joy. Most importantly, we celebrated love. The sense of care we bring into the room, a mutual and holistic investment in each poet’s growth and well-being.
Write hard. Care much. Repeat. (at Barbican Centre)
Took some Barbican Young Poets and other a few other young poets I’m working with to meet the literature team at the Arts Council this afternoon. Happy to hear the range of ideas these poets are scheming. Thanks to the literature team for making the time.
4th floor. Rather lovely slide image exhibition. Projectors are centrally placed, pointing at different walls. They shut off after a short time, and must be triggered by pressing a red button (not the projectors themselves; fragile, don’t touch). And you become aware of sight-lines (light-lines)— how easy it is to transgress by walking in front of light source and casting your shadow across an image. How light brings these archive images to life (complete with the hum/breath of a projector’s inner workings); how fragile light can be.
Now considering a projected exhibition with images and typography/text/poems. So much of my thinking is digital these days, it’s refreshing to consider something that’s analog and still subtly interactive. (at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, Ramilles Street, Oxford street)
At the Photographers’ Gallery, watching people taking pictures of pictures. Meta is the God of these hours. (at The Photographers’ Gallery)
Back from another @arvoninsta / @totleighbarton week. Much poetry and many varied tongues. This: the view I woke up to each morning. (at Sheepwash)
Destination this morning: FairPlay House, Witham, to write poems with a group of East London students on a residential outward bound experience. Meanwhile, Barbican Young Poets will be rehearsing this evening for next Wednesday’s showcase…
“I don’t have access to this kind of thing on computer but, oddly enough, what you’re talking about sounds very much like the way I start looking for ideas when I’m not working on anything. Or when I’m just letting myself drift, relax. I generally have four or five books open around the house—I live alone; I can do this—and they are not books on the same subject. They don’t relate to each other in any particular way, and the ideas they present bounce off one another. And I like this effect. I also listen to audio-books, and I’ll go out for my morning walk with tapes from two very different audio-books, and let those ideas bounce off each other, simmer, reproduce in some odd way, so that I come up with ideas that I might not have come up with if I had simply stuck to one book until I was done with it and then gone and picked up another. So, I guess, in that way, I’m using a kind of primitive hypertext.”
The UnPD: “On writing questions to spark inquiry, from Teaching as a Subversive Activity [by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner]. “What’s worth knowing?“” And, as Anne Galloway notes, “Never mind the sexist language, these are STELLAR teaching goals!”
Will your questions increase the learner’s will as well as his capacity to learn?
Will they help to give him a sense of joy in learning?
Will they help to provide the learner’s with confidence in his ability to learn?
In order to get answers, will the learner be required to make inquiries? (Ask further questions, clarify terms, make observations, classify data, etc.?)
Does each question allow for alternative answers (which implies alternative modes of inquiry)
Will the process of answering the questions tend to stress the uniqueness of the learner?
Would the questions produce different answers if asked at different stages of the learner’s development?
Will the answers help the learner to sense and understand the universals in the human condition and so enhance his ability to draw closer to other people?
“It’s very likely that our next Octavia Butler is today writing on WattPad or Tumblr or Facebook. When those servers cease to respond, what will we lose? More than the past is at stake—all our imagined futures are at risk, too.”
(via Maria Popova – Wisdom in the Age of Information (Future of StoryTelling 2014) on Vimeo)
Virginia Woolf, “The death of the moth”.
“Straying from the standardised template of education is scary; it forces you to address and take responsibility for the shape and continuation of your own education. Yet this self-directing approach is also far closer to the constantly inquisitive, curious state that being an artist entails.”
“Language is just music without the full instrumentation. Music doesn’t have the burden of connotation that language does. I prefer music, actually. I think there’s almost no room between the two. Talking about what a poem can do, think about Miles Davis or Beethoven—those pieces that have communicated something emotional without language; the only language you have is the title. I think a poem can do that, but people resist that. I’m chasing a kind of language that can be unburdened by people’s expectations. I think music is the primary model—how close can you get this language to be like music and communicate feeling at the base level in the same way a composition with no words communicates meaning?”
“If you think about an animal, there’s no perfect animal. Most people think of poems like they’re machines. I’m thinking of something more organic and human that exists the way it needs to exist, more like a baby or child. How do you achieve that? I think of myself as a person who likes to be in control of everything. So how do I surprise myself? For so long I’ve been this person who’s been too in control, so how do I relinquish control? Some of it’s about line breaks, narrative. I like the poem to look a certain way in terms of line breaks, but how do I release control? Some of it is subject matter. The poet wants to be liked in the poem, but what does it mean to not always chase some kind of appeal? Discomfort, vulnerability, rawness that come up in a poem—that also has to do with perfection, the absence of perfection. That’s hard to teach, but if you make people more generous in the workshop, then you can get it. You say, “Oh, it’s not a perfect poem, but it’s pretty good; we’ll take that.” It creates generosity if you aren’t chasing a perfect object.”