I’ve never really considered myself as mouthy, or confidently called myself a Poet, but there was something about the Mouthy Poets organisation which appealed to me when I received an e-mail from the English department informing me of a placement opportunity with them. Mouth Poets is a Nottingham based organisation which encourages young people to write and perform poetry in Spoken Word shows hosted by the Nottingham Playhouse.
Spoken word is a form of performance poetry which draws from other art forms like music, dance and theatre but is primarily all about the way in which the words are spoken. I’ve always thought that poetry is better heard than read but it’s only in the last couple of hundred years that poetry has become a more widely read artistic form. Old English poems like Beowulf would have been memorised and performed to an audience because so few people were literate and paper was expensive. These poems were written with their oral nature in mind; rhyme schemes and patterns were implanted as much for ease of memorising as for artistic merit. Modern Spoken word poetry was born out of the Harlem Renaissance and blues music and became popular in the African-American Civil Rights’ Movement in the 1960s. It’s a form of social commentary in which the poet voices opinions, experiences and emotions about life as they know it.
My job is to attend weekly Friday workshops and write blogs about the sessions. When I went along to the first workshop I was pretty apprehensive. I’d never gone to a Creative Writing workshop before or performed any of my poetry, so this was quite daunting for me. I was, however, also very excited. I have been writing stories and poems for as long as I can remember and have always envisaged myself as someday being a published author. I felt that getting involved with the Mouthy writing community was definitely a step in the right direction.
When I got there everyone was so welcoming, warm and friendly that I found it impossible not to feel at ease. The atmosphere was positive, supportive and easy-going. There was no pressure to write anything spectacular and there was no sense that people were judging each other. They seemed to get the balance right between assuring us that we only need contribute poetry if we felt comfortable. We were encouraged to join in and be a bit mouthy. In a moment that felt wonderfully out of character for me, I performed a little snippet of poetry that I’d written in a warm-up exercise to the group. We were told, NO DISCLAIMERS! They emphasised the fact that everyone understood that very few people wrote genius the first time round.
The theme of Mouthy’s next Say Sumthin Show on the 7th/8th March is transformation. Most of the people there had already been working on their poems so they grouped up and helped one another improve them. I was unsure at this point whether I was confident enough to perform in this show but joined in a group of people who were also new to Mouthy and we each spent half an hour “free-writing” about this theme. This was basically a stream-of-consciousness writing exercise in which I just wrote down anything that came into my head in relation to transformation. This is a useful exercise for anyone with writer’s block. Waiting to be struck by inspiration is all very well but sometimes actively forcing yourself to write can show you what it is that you want to write about. Reading through it afterwards in pairs, I managed to find the skeleton of a poem. It was great to share ideas with somebody else – this is never as scary as you think it is.
Since then I have been working on various drafts of this poem and think I will be performing it at the Say Sumthin scratch show on the 7th March. This show is a bit like an open mic night; I’ve been told that it has a chilled out atmosphere. There is also a commission show on the 8th which some of the more confident poets will be performing in to paying members of the public. I’m nervous, of course, but everyone else at Mouthy is too, so somehow that makes it seem a lot less scary. A lot of support is given in the workshops to improve the poems and advice on how to perform them so I don’t feel alone.
Mouthy Poets have closed their open recruitment at the moment so they can focus on helping the people who are already involved. I would, however, encourage anyone who loves writing poetry and would like to be part of a supportive writing community to check out their website and facebook and keep an eye out for the next opportunity to attend workshops.