Notes from the North East

WORDCUP2010 kicked off in the North East, where an extended project is taking place, coordinated by Radikal Words. Ten teams of young people in the region are working with poet coaches towards their own regional final, which will take place at the Arc in Stockon-on-Tees on Saturday 3 July.

At the end of March, the North East poets met at the Arc for two days of workshops, led by Radikal Words and Jacob Sam-La Rose, Artistic Director of the London Teenage Poetry SLAM and WORDCUP’s creative consultant. The workshops focussed on sharing and developing tools for working with young people.

I went up for the first day and it was wonderful to be in a room with so many talented poets and performers who all care about bringing poetry into education. As with all good meetings, it involved lots of games, led by different members of the group. Here’s one led by Jeff Price of Radikal Words – a game he often plays with students to get them writing and thinking about themselves…

This Hand…

  • Ask each member of the group to draw around their writing hand. They must then write their name in the middle
  • Outside the hand, ask them to write down three things their hand has done: two true things, and one lie
  • Ask each member to feed back what they have written and ask the group to guess which one is the lie

"This hand has milked a cow, this hand has caught a pigeon, this hand has been broken...."

One of the best things about working on a project like this is seeing how willing poet coaches are to share ideas, techniques and teaching material. Jacob led an exercise on poetic principles – asking the poets what, for them, creates strong writing. Here are some of the things they said:

  • Have a strong message
  • Convey the familiar in an original way
  • Tell personal stories  – make them interesting
  • Write it all down in the first draft – edit later. Kill the inner censor!
  • Draw on the senses
  • Be specific – use concrete images
  • Avoid clichés
  • Don’t rely on rhyme – use a range of poetic devices
  • Connect to your audience
  • Have fun

Young poets, take note!


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