I delivered a one hour interactive poetry presentation to approx years 7 and 8 pupils from 2 schools in the Aberystwyth area. The event was part of the Hay Festival Scribblers Tour and took place in a theatre at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. There were about 100 people at the event, and they participated in great style, for instance, this is the first time I’ve got a spontaneous hand clap starting in the audience when I do my “Together” poem (available for fee download here at martindaws.com click audio).
We ran through the never-tiring-always-rewarding-transatlantically-expanded-Martin’s Meaning Machine (OOOOOOh!), starting with the word ‘Celebrity’. It was a good choice. The suggestion for ‘Celebrity means……’ was ‘Greed’. Very thought provoking. We then got ‘Hungry’ and ‘Empty’. Working in a whole group we began to play with the idea of ‘Get me out of here’ and then ‘Let me in’. While the pupils worked through their own meaning machines on celebrity I put together a poem on the big screen.
It’s a decent start. We then finished the session with an offer to the participants to read their poem on the stage. 14 young people took the mic and read their poems from the session. It was real pleasure to work with everyone and have fun writing poetry. Further info on The Scribblers Tour is at https://www.hayfestival.com/thescribblers/scribblerstour.aspx?skinid=25
The Poetry Slam is a live performance competition. Every poet has 3 minutes. The Slam is judged by 5 volunteers from the audience who are given scorecards. The highest and lowest scores are disregarded, and the winner is the poet with the highest score. Usually running over 3 rounds, Slam events incorporate an open mic to begin the show, a 20min feature reading from an established poet, then an interval (during which the feature sells their books) and then the Slam. Its a well established and highly effective formula for a varied and dynamic poetry show.
The hosts at the Slam are integral to the success of the event. They are witty, commanding, supportive and highly articulate, and they set the atmosphere with an arresting combination of irreverent humour and intelligent commentary on current issues and experiences (the weather, the news, sports, whatever). It is one area where the skills set over here is much higher than in the UK.
The actual quality of the poetry in the USA is fairly comparable to what I’ve seen in the UK, but there is one major difference – audience! Over the last 2 weeks I have been to 5 poetry slams in 4 cities of the USA. Starting at The Green Mill, Chicago where The Poetry Slam was invented by Mark Kelly Smith (its a nationwide tradition now that everyone shouts “So What” at the mention of his name) 30 years ago to make poetry readings more interesting and accessible, I went on to Omaha, Seattle and Portland. Without exception every venue has been packed full of people hungry to hear poetry. The crowd of about 100 in Portland were the most enthusiastic audience I have ever been a part of: they went nuts for every poet regardless of anything they said in their poem. It was almost too much.
Slam has two great strengths. Firstly, the name Slam is a masterstroke of marketing. It sounds so much more exciting that a “reading”, and less pretentious than a “performance”. Regardless of the actual content of the show, it sounds hip and makes it easy to invite new people into the audience. Secondly, it taps into a very well established model of sports competition. People go against each other over a series of knockout rounds and one of them is crowned the winner. However nerve wracking this makes it for poets shy of being judged, it provides edge, structure and celebration to the event.
The success of the formula has created an international movement that embraces local, national and world slam championships. Individual and team slams take place. Youth slams take place. Women of the World Slams take place. Queer Slams take place. Slam is as all embracing as language itself and it is providing millions of people worldwide with a platform and a method to articulate their story.
I’ve been given a Creative Wales Ambassador Award. This means that I will be working in a partnership with Literature Wales and Urban Word NYC to create the first Wales Youth Slam Team who will be competing at Brave New Voices (the US National Youth Slam Championships) in Philadelphia in July 2014 – WORD!!!!! WOOOP!!!!! Fist Pumps etc.
The project is in three parts. Right now I’m in the USA researching Slam Poetry.This trip takes me to Chicago, Omaha, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. In this phase I’m working with youth poetry organisations, world champion slam poets and schools to get inside how they deliver spoken word poetry out here. Its impressive. In Chicago they have a slam festival that features 6000 (yes 6000) young poets from the Chicago area. Here in Omaha, Nebraska Writers Collective are delivering a coordinated slam project in 32 schools. This is the kind of engagement infrastructure that I’m hoping to develop in Wales over the next few years.
Phase two takes me to New York in April where I will be working with Urban Word NYC as they develop the New York Youth Slam Team. The skills set of the poetry tutors in NYC is stellar and I know I will learn a lot of new tricks from them.
Then I’m working in Cathays High School, Cardiff to form the first Wales Youth Slam Team. This year is a pilot project so we are just working in the one school as we test out our methods. For 2015 our aim is to deliver a nationwide schools slam project that will enable us to to truly form a representative Wales Slam Team.
We finish the project at Brave New Voices in Philadelphia. Of my three trips to the USA on this project, this is the one I’m looking forward to most. Its a huge priviledge to offer those 5 young poets – whoever they may be – the opportunity to travel overseas and represent their country. We will all be learning a great deal from the experiences we will share.
Introducing the youth slam model, that is going viral in every city in the USA at the moment, to Wales was one of my main ambitions when I began my tenure as YPL, and with the assistance of Arts Council Wales I am so pleased to be making the ambition a reality.
We had a great session today with The Hay Festival Scribblers Tour today. We were in Trinity St David’s University working with a very able group of year 9 and 10 students from Ysgol Dyffryn Amman.
The plan was;
1.Interactive performance of 3 of my poems (Together, B.F.A.S.E, Under the Slates)
2. Freestyle on the theme of “Creativity” using a vocabiulary given me by the group
3. Martin’s Meaning Machine on the theme of “Imagine”
It went like this;
To Imagine Means To Think
To Think means To Believe
To Believe means To Faith (we used faith as a verb)
We began the poem with a preposition – this time its is before.
Before I imagine myself – I think of you
to believe you’re still with me
to grieve my faith that we will be again
The vocabulary got me thinking about my late Dad, how I would love to see him again, and how I believe he lives in on me.
While the young people worked on their own poem, I drafted the poem twice and arrived at;
The King is Dead (Long Live the King)
Before I imagine myself
I think of you
think that you were
before I was
think that I am
after you were
these tenses relax now that you’re past
Before I imagine myself
I believe you’re still with me
grieve my faith that we will be again
anchor my truth to what is real;
my heart beats your name
my name holdsyour legacy
my legacy to heal your wound(ed) soldier
take him home
I imagine myself a feather gurney
an Avalon barge to cry the King to rest
The King is dead
Long live the King x 3
I’m happy with that for a morning’s work.
The last session of the Llanfair Caereinion literacy initiative turned out be one of the most rewarding I have ever delivered. I love the way this workshop developed. Let me explain the process.
At Ysgol Gynradd Llanfair Caereinion, we worked in the Neuadd/Hall with 54 year 5 and 6 students to deliver a 2 hour session with the aim of engaging the students in literacy and inspiring them to write creatively – Same day same glorious opportunity to have some moments of real meaning. We followed the same session plan as in the previous sessions;
- interactive poem
- freestyle by md
- Meaning Machine exercise
- sharing our work
We chose to put the theme of Literacy into our meaning machine, and got literacy means thinking means questions means answers.
We chose the preposition inside to go before literacy, decided to change literacy to words, and then developed the following piece through group oral composition;
inside these words
there is thinking
questions to be asked
answers to be found
knowledge to be revealed
truth to be spoken
served up face to face
in your face – we mean it
Board from Ysgol Gynradd Llanfair Ceireinion
The statement we mean it
was the key to inspiring the workshop to step up to whole new level. I asked each one of the students to think of a short statement to articulate something they really MEAN
– something that if they could only write one thing that everyone in the world would read, what would it be? Oh My Gosh – 30 of the students came up with some of the most beautiful, human, wise, empowering statements I have heard – it was a wonderful experience to direct the performance and recording of this poem. The poem is called We Mean It
(please, click on the link to listen to the students perform the piece). Enjoy.
Don’t let anybody control your life – you own it
Nobody can make you do something you don’t want to
It’s your decision – don’t be afraid of who you are
You choose what you want to be in the future
You’re family always loves you
Your family means the world to you
Do what you always want to do
Be whoever you want to be
Make the most of life
Always be yourself
Life may bring you to the unexpected - but its where you’re supposed to be
Enjoy life while you can
Choose your own path
Everyone makes mistakes its important that we learn from them
Everyone’s there for you
I like Pizza and I mean it
Be true to yourself
Believe in hope
Never give up hope hope
We’re all worthy of something
Be the best you can be
I love life
Believe in yourself
This week has me delivering YPL workshops to 1 High School and 8 Ysgolau Gynradd in the Llanfair Caereinion/Newtown area. The work we are doing is the first phase in the creation of a central online hub for creative literacy in the area where young people and educators from the different schools can share their work.
Its been a massive pleasure to work with the schools and find fun ways to develop creative thinking with words. Of course, the Wales renowned soon to be Outernationally Exploded MARTIN’S MEANING MACHINE is in full effect boyeeeee!
board from Ysgol Meifod
This is the breakdown of the sessions;
We say hello
We do an interactive performance of my piece together (video here www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BlVasGqgSc )
I do a freestyle inspired by words relating to literacy the class give me
We do Martin’s Meaning Machine in phases that we work on the board first, and then on our own individual sheets;
- explore the meaning of one word e.g. book means read means learn means teach
- make a list of prepositions ( definition here www.writingcentre.uottawa.ca/hypergrammar/preposit.html)
- make a strong statement for the first word, beginning with a preposition (to give the piece a spatial/temporal context – word!) e.g inside this book horizons break
- make a strong statement for each of the other words e.g the word read themselves / it where we teach to dream / to grow into ourselves
- turn the statements into a coherent poem using identified poetic techniques e.g.
Inside this book horizons break
take us to the future
where these words will read themselves
teaching us to dream – again (and again)
so we grow back to back
to ourselves in front of this page
In the above example we would identify 1 x image, 3 x assonance, 2 x rhyme, 1 x repetition, 1 x opposition, 3 x alliteration and also a smooth use of rhythmic time – nice!
The young people of this very beautiful area of Wales are showing great ability and we are having lots of fun performing my piece Together together, doing silly Game Show noises for each phase of the meaning machine, and generally having fun at work. It makes me so happy to see the young people engaging with their creativity – it reminds me just how lucky I am to do this for a job!
We did it!!
3 solid weeks living with Les Compagnons in Emmaus Dunkerque and Camille Faucherre and myself created a 40 min sound poetry theatre piece called ‘Une en Trois’.
The project wrapped Friday night at L’Entrepot (the university’s main music/theatre venue in Dunkerque). IMO it was a strong show; dynamic, original, well performed and socially and geographically relevant to Dunkerque.
The audience were great – about 100 people really engaging with some out there sound poetry theatre. Full audio of the show is here
I have to thank La Generale D’Imaginaire for facilitating the residency, in particular Donatella, Celine and Valerie who have been so supportive and helpful. Also Camille Fauchere who showed an incredible confidence, strength and creativity in his work on the project. Lastly I would like to offer my humble and sincere gratitude to Les Compagnons of Emmaus Dunkerque – merci beaucop mes amis – bonne chance/bon chant
I’ve learned so much artistically from this residency in terms of how to create sound poetry and techniques to create a theatre piece. It has also challenged my political thinking as to what a society is – at the end of the project I ask myself how can I conceive of one coherent organism that can support the human truths of all the people in the places I have visited – Les Compagnons, the migrants in Calais, the celebrated Poets being hosted by The Queen in Buckingham Palace, the Roma Gypsies about to be evicted from their village in Dunkerque. Its deep territory, and while I am perplexed by my attempts to make sense of it all, I am very much enriched as a poet and a person by the process of asking how to find the one truth of how to make all this work – the closest I’ve got so far is ‘with wealth comes responsibility’ – WORD!
Une en Trois went live last night!
Camille Fauchere and myself did a preview show in a local bar here in Grand Synthe, Dunkerque.
It was good to get the first one out of the way and bring that experience to rehearsals today. We have a performance tonight here, in Emmaus Dunkerque, where we have been resident for the last 17 days.
Its an intense piece
Camille Fauchere and myself finished our script yesterday: Its a three act spoken word theatre show. The show is titled “Une en Troix” (1 in 3).
Today we began rehearsing Act 1. It is set on the beach at Dunkerque during the 1940 evacuation. Written in the first person we recreate the war zone in sound poetry interspersed with poems. As the act progresses we bring in music and Camille speaks a eulogy to the 11000 men who died in the evacuation. It was genuinely touching today when we ran the act and Camille had a hard time saying the words without breaking down.
The memory of the German invasion is written into the earth here. Cycling through the flat farm land in the region the reality of that time hits home to me. The retreating French, Belgian and British armies followed by the German Panzer divisions and infantry seem to ghost through the fields – lone farm houses stage running battles in my mind – bridges burn trying to stall the pursuit – its truly terrifying to imagine how the French people of the region must have felt as they saw there homeland ripped up into a killing field.
We try to do justice to their memory.
Back in Unis Cite this morning for a follow up session to our workshop last Friday (please see previous post Residencie Du Compangnie Generale D’Imaginaire #3 15.11.13) Camille Faucherre and myself created the following exercise for the group;
write down 1 word for;
what you do at Unis Cite
your best friend
an action for one of the words
an image for one of the words
a place for one of the words
a memory for one of the words
anything you want with the remaining word
For step 1 I got;
laughing/holding my wife/a frozen machine/a grave/light
Then you use the words from step 2 to write something.
November freezing laughter in the empty Felin streets – my coat getting thinner on my back – I’m left outside now my heart has moved to you and you’re not home.
In the marina – the boats asleep secret behind the harbour wall – a 12m weekend holiday yacht left like Wednesday 1am on wooden stands – I climbed inside the cockpit, burrowed down among the folded sails, and curled into my warm of you beside me; shivered a prayer to the light at the end of the harbour wall for another morning to break.
The young people wrote some strong stuff, we had a sharing of the work and it felt like they really got a lot out of the simple structure.
Camille finished off with his sound poem sans visa vite