London (abstract edition, 06:25 remix)
“Throughout my years as student and professor, I have been most inspired by those teachers who have…”
- bell hooks; Teaching To Transgress
I’m currently in the middle of a manic period. A residential creative writing week at Arvon with a group of Year 6 students, followed by a day in Birmingham offering teachers tools and techniques for working with poetry (via the Princes Teaching institute), back to London to lead my Spoken Word Education seminar at Goldsmiths, then off to Amsterdam to support Poetry Circle Nowhere in constructing a development programme for their poet-educators, then back to London for another Princes Teaching Institute training day. And all the while, staying on top of the todo list, the email inbox, fielding phone calls, chasing up open loops, putting out fires, liasing with doctors on my mother’s behalf, talking people down from summits of stress, keeping everything moving forward, holding it all together…
Yesterday, two milestones. A showcase and anthology launch at the lead training centre (Cardinal Pole School) for the Spoken Word Education Programme, and a showcase/launch to celebrate the end of another year of Barbican Young Poets. If you’re a creative freelancer, you’ll know that our work often moves through emotional peaks and troughs. While you’re making/managing, the work often draws on you. But when you hit a milestone, when you can look back and see what it is that you’ve done; you can appreciate the balance.
It occurs to me that one of the key indicators of success in most (if not all) of my projects is love. Sometimes that love has to be nurtured from a small spark. But when it’s there, and it’s true, beautiful things happen. Love, and all its constituent parts: mutual respect, communication, interdependence, responsibility, forgiveness, care for each other’s well-being… So many of the poets I work with engage with the darker aspects of experience through their writing. But that darkness is transformed through love, even if only of the craft. And that love is manifest in the spaces we make and share.
Perhaps we can say our best work comes from love. And this is the kind of work I’m happiest doing.
"Meditate, padawan. Make mind like empty seat. People come, people go, the seat remains. The seat is not troubled by the bodies which sit in it. The seat is only concerned with being the seat."
Channelling my inner voice of wisdom on the train to Poole. Out of London for the day to extract poems from the minds of students at Corfe Hills School in Broadstone. BRB.
"Climate change sucks." @PeteTheTemp hosts a climate change demonstration/rally in front of the Houses of Parliament. Pete just happens to be one of the Spoken Word Educators (one of the programmes I’m currently responsible for). I just happened to be passing through the area. Serendipity is a beautiful thing.
Back in London. Just spent my afternoon talking about tools for working with poetry for teachers through the Princes Teaching Institute. Also just got asked to record a thank you to a teacher who inspired me. Mrs Jaekyll— you got your due.
Post-it notes. What did the world do before they were invented?
Currently working with Poetry Circle Nowhere. Nowhere is a cultural institution and development agency based in Amsterdam. We’re talking about ways of developing coaches who work with satellite Poetry Circles— communities of writer-performers…
02:30— wake up (thank you, body clock). 03:30— cab to Heathrow.
06:30— flight to Amsterdam.
?— pass out?
En route to Amsterdam to work with Poetry Circle Nowhere. BRB.
“Consider all those times you’ve exchanged a million texts with someone while making plans when voice…”
A little light lunchtime reading between work-sprints— musing on the future of app interfaces woven into text messaging platforms…
- Seth Godin, via Creative Mornings
How much performance in poetry is for entertainment’s sake, and how much is… something else?
“Over the years answering that question has not been easy, because racism has so often been used to…”
Over the years answering that question has not been easy, because racism has so often been used to define who we are. First, there was the concept of being “a stranger in your own home”: racism had made you a misfit. You had grown up in the UK, but because of your skin colour you would always be treated as an outsider. It left you feeling empty. You were being told to accept you would never really belong anywhere.
Second, you were often told – with some validity – that because “race” was largely a political and social construct, “being black” had no real meaning. It was a concept created by a racist society and your aspiration should be to free yourself from it. But that also felt inadequate. As a British black person, why did I have to leave behind my particular cultural references and personal history? Why was it not possible to celebrate both being black and being British? Should it really be my aspiration to “escape” from being black?
Third was the radical solution: in a racist society, being black was simply incompatible with being British, so you should choose the former over the latter. Being British was just not for you. Even when this seemed tempting, that option was a lot harder than it appeared. I suspect that most of us have never been more aware of how British we really are than when we visit relatives in the Caribbean or Africa. Like it or not, eventually you have to accept that this country is very much part of you.”
The Black Experience - Portraits of a Community, Matthew Ryder (via The Guardian)
And yes, I’m very much looking forward to this exhibition…
“Brownout, a term also used to describe part of the life cycle of a star, is different from burnout…”
The article goes on to recommend active partnering, which essentially reads as a more holistic relationship with a line-manager and an engaged awareness of both professional and personal goals, which is unlikely to happen anywhere beyond the most enlightened organisations and institutions. But what about the creative freelancer, who essentially serves as their own manager (and everything else)? Particularly those creatives who don’t have a great deal of experience of working within professional structures, enough to understand the importance of mentoring, peer mentoring, regular professional reviews and all the other valuable meta-practices that keep the business of getting the real work done healthy AND productive?
Who do you have in place to look after your best interests when you’re too busy to do so?
Depend on imagery more than narrative. Even if the epiphany isn’t startling, the image you choose to offer up for it might well be.
Re-interrogate the epiphany. Perhaps it fobbed you off with stale information, told you want you wanted to hear. Tie it down in the chair and torture it hard until it gives you the truth you may not have even known you were looking for.
Hypothesise, practise, validate, shikumika (systematise) - via Hiroshi Nikitani
Mmm. Hayler’s project, itself a response to Mcguire and Maguire’s Theatre Book, has all the promise of a rather tasty series of essays on innovation in storytelling, digital literature and making. I happened to chance upon it while toying with the idea of an essay/presentation/workshop/syllabus on tools that complement the making of connections between seemingly disparate or incongruent ideas— defined by some as a foundational component of creative thinking. It’s a thread of thought that’s been inspired by Evernote’s context feature (I’ve been raving about this for ages now) that shows notes related to the one you’re viewing based on relationships determined by an algorithm. Also, by some of the more involved ‘related posts’ plugins that can be installed in Wordpress. Also, by some of the apps that represent your notes/data in visual form— Mohiomap and Bubble browser to name a couple.
I’ve written before about the kind of resistance I sometimes experience from writers I work with when it comes to technology. And I understand, I really do. But, as I’m reminded by the reference to Thoreau, these are all just tools. Some of us use paper and pens. Some of us use tablets and styli. Some of us use algorithms. At the end of it all, yes— practice/process is of interest, and can impact the work, but what matters is what’s made…
- –Steven Pressfield, The War of Art 6 Famous Artists Talk About What It’s Like to Overcome Fear and Create Beauty | James Clear