From Love – Creating a Group Poem

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From Love

Saturday caterpillars are
climbing trees.

Saturday’s children sing
‘Caterpillar aeroplane.’

Six caterpillars begin
to grow.

In the yellow night
time is climbing &
purple bubbles of song
swing sticks about.

Saturday people
swim cobwebs of
blue people &
blue frogs.

Saturday’s stones know that
old love
forms in the leaves
falling from the trees.

Old women over June
are running free
red over black stones
time is climbing.

Old women over August sing,
‘be that dirt and mud
that grows these green forest trees.’

Butterflies flutter free
through the dragon grass

From Love,
old stones that are scattered
form the foundation
of all that is to come.

By Jennifer Hume,  Kylie Castle, Jessica Brain, Jackie Towell, Margaret Van Blommestein
Dominique, Christina and Ashleigh, David, Norah and 4 anons
& June Perkins  Drafted 15/7/2017

Edited by June Perkins   16/7/2017

CREATING A GROUP POEM FOR WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY FESTIVAL – BOONAH

Equipment

  • Magnets,  mini white boards,  white board markers, phone cameras, magnets, and an SLR camera.
  • Special prompts on poetic form if they wanted to work on them, going with visual poems, acrostics,  the line, and haiku.
  • Due to it being an environmental festival we were avoiding using paper.

Method

We laid out a table with the equipment, and some instructions and terms for participation, and they could also talk to me.

Participants were encouraged to connect what they had written to the person before them through either.

  • Image or Idea
  • Word
  • Phrase

They were drawn from passers by and people querying the book.

We kept what the person had written before on the slr camera, and also on a mini white board if we could.

Participants could chose to have their full name, or first name as authors, and leave emails so we could send them the final poem.

Special challenges

  • Participants were all ages, including children who couldn’t really write or read yet.
  • There was a large number of concerts, stalls and workshop based activities, as well as a film screening, and a sand pit to compete with and so the group poem struggled although it was introduced.
  • We had about 15 participants over the whole day.
  • The links between the phrases afterwards didn’t always make fluent sense.

Positives

  • People who did stop were intrigued by the idea.
  • It worked best when they mainly worked with magnets and enjoyed playing.
  • Drawing scaffold images like leaves to place words into was helpful.
  • The visual shape prompt was looked at a few times.
  • A lot more people stopped to watch others doing the activity than to do it themselves.
  • People who enjoyed it found other participants.
  • People did not read the written down laminated prompts.
  • The use of magnets avoided cliches and encouraged people to truly play and invent based on the magnet sets that I had.

Afterwards

When working with the words afterwards, rather than literally chaining them together with little editing I took the strongest lines and kept them intact and then worked with the other phrases as if they were magnet boards.

So the words were remixed and the stanzas were linked in a way that would make a poem that made sense, and less random.  Attractive phrases were repeated.

The resulting poem is above. Some lines were discarded for the first poetry mix above as they didn’t seem to fit well with the others.

Another mix may be done to include those if it is possible.

Reflections

  • The magnet play aspect was great!
  • It might help to have a set full on workshop time, instructional talk, within the program to encourage people to participate in the group poetry followed by them creating their piece.
  • Might also help to have a poetry reading time and space next to the group poem creating space prior to a creating time.
  • Have the walk in create a group poem space set up in a more inviting way and be placed in a different spot within the venue that people are more likely to stop and dwell in.
  • Not be selling books at the same time.
  • Have more poetry helpers on board.
  • Think about using a large chalk board and some large white boards, or being able to chalk art people can write poems into on the ground (working with a chalk artist)
  • Have other participants who are keen to work on the editing process afterwards.
  • Collect more magnets!  Or make laminated plastic word pools with key themes of the festival and divided into word groupings in trays people can draw upon.
  • Work with Junk orchestra or others to use a beat to create some of the words of the poems.
  • Ask the Junk orchestra guy to gather young people to come participate in creating the group poem/art work as he was pretty persuasive.
  • It was fun sharing some stories about group poems, like how haiku parties can be held as well as talking about shape poems.
  • Have a laptop set up so people can view a photograph of what was written previously going back a few screens or have people work on post cards and pin the postcards up progressively (ie use paper); but also have people edit and shift postcards around (perhaps the coordinating artist/writer).

I would love to try this idea again, and using the experiences of Boonah, refine it until it is greater or as close to universal participation.

I’d like to especially think about the physical layout and how to make it more inviting, and talk to some artists about that, and invite the help of chalk artists and musicians to make it a more multidimensional creative space.

If you have ever worked on creating group poems within a festival space, please respond to this blog!  We’d love your feedback!

If you helped create this poem, do send us your feedback as well.

(c) June Perkins

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5 thoughts on “From Love – Creating a Group Poem

  1. That’s a fabulous result, June. Thank you for including my few words. I was really interested to read about the process. Thanks for letting me know about this great day out.

    1. Thanks for going with the flow. Drew a scaffold butterfly with the words freedom in the middle for people to respond to from your contribution.

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