A Year of Poetry

A Year of Poetry

Since my poetry baby Rhymes & Records turned one in January, I thought it only appropriate to commemorate this wondrous occasion in a blog post, reflecting on the year we’ve had and thanking some of the people who have been involved along the way.

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For those of you who don’t know: Rhymes & Records is a spoken word night in Liverpool, held on the second Tuesday of every month at The Jacaranda, Liverpool featuring some of the most exciting artists from the North West.

Humble Beginnings

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Starting out in the Record store upstairs in The Jacaranda, we soon had to be ushered into a bigger space after the first event filling up to the point where we had to start turning people away (something we had a: not anticipated and b: never seen happen before at a poetry night!)

Stand out Moments

My favourite moments have to be the collaborations we did with FACT Liverpool and Liverpool Pride. (Although watching headliner Joy France do a live experiment with the audience involving Mira Berries, pickle juice and tequila is very high up on the list too) (Don’t worry if you’re confused by that last one, you kind of had to be there)

Lets start with FACT. On 11th March, 2016, 9 poets showed up at FACT Liverpool to view Japanese artist Ryoichi Kurokawa’s exhibition Unfold. We proceeded to walk out an hour later with our minds well and truly blown. We then had the task of turning our reaction to this mind-bending, multi-sensory, synaesthesia-inducing, art exhibition into a piece of poetry to perform (simple right? um, no not really)

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Artists at FACT’s Unfold exhibition

Liverpool Pride’s collaboration took place in our temporary home (for one month only) of Heebie Jeebies and turned out to be one of the most packed, vibrant, engaging nights we’ve had so far!

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Poets Mo and Victoria waiting for our Pride themed night to start

Which leads me to…

The Community

By far, the absolute best thing to have come out of this monthly night of poetry would be the sense of community that we have created.

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Some of the lovely messages this night has received throughout the year
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A stellar review from poet Paul Pyke!

The overwhelming volume of talent (that only seems to be growing), the support people show one another and the conversations that happen afterwards are the reason I keep turning up and forcing my shy self to get on a mic to host month after month.

To everyone who made the night what it is, no matter how big or small your role has been, I appreciate all of you and want to say a resounding THANK YOU for being part of this community.

To another year of chaos, mayhem, stories and poetry! *clinks imaginary champagne flute* You’ve all came a long way and I sincerely hope you celebrate that.

To join the party and attend our upcoming nights, click here

Rhymes & Records, 2nd Tuesday of every month

The Jacaranda, Slater Street

7:00pm £3 entry (free for performers)

I wrote ONE HUNDRED love poems for STRANGERS: THIS IS WHAT I LEARNED

I wrote ONE HUNDRED love poems for STRANGERS: THIS IS WHAT I LEARNED

“This isn’t a collection of my best work, or a collection of poems I spent the most time on, or even a collection of poems dedicated to the people I love the most. This is a collection of work created for people I had just met. Each poem I wrote in 10 minutes, typed frantically onto a piece of recycled paper, using a vintage typewriter.”

-taken from the intro to my book Love Poems I Wrote for Strangers

I have spent the last 2 years of my life appearing at festivals and events around The UK creating custom poetry for strangers. It started with asking a series of questions in order to get to know a person better. I remember doing random google searches of “best questions to quickly get to know someone” or “best questions to know someone’s soul”. After a series of trial and error, the following were the questions I whittled it down to:

“Name?” “What’s up?” “Favourite smell?” “Favourite time of year?” “What are you afraid of?” “One thing you would change about the world?” “One thing you would change about yourself?” “What’s your superpower?”  “Love is…..” And finally “tell me a secret”

Why do it?

At first I treated it as nothing more than a great writing exercise. It can take me months to finish a poem in some cases. This was a perfect way to commit myself to creating multiple poems in a day (normally around 20/30) When you take down the answers of another person and give them a timeslot, you know that they are going to come back and expect a fully formed poem waiting for them.

It’s kind of liberating. Knowing that you have to make quick decisions can actually make you skip the b.s. and make some pretty bold and confident choices. Typing straight from brain to page without any sort of redraft and liking what you come up with is actually a pretty cool feeling.

It helps beat perfectionism. There’s something really beautiful in knowing that there is no way you can possibly create something perfect (well I wouldn’t say no way but there’s certainly no expectation). There is something really charming in reading something that was created in 10 minutes for a complete stranger!

It gives you a pretty good insight into peoples lives and the way that they perceive the world (more on that in a minute)

The Things I Learned 

Firstly that the quality of the poem really depends on how deep people go with their answers. For the most part, I do not know these people and I have to spend a lot of time reminding them that I can only go on their answers to my questions.”Give as much detail as possible” is what I used to say. Writing “Don’t have any, lol” in response to “tell me a secret” isn’t going to give me much to run with. That said sometimes the people who wrote the least ended up being my best poems because I had to go a little deeper with my imagination, had to think a little harder, had to use a little more intuition in order to create something that would stir them in even the smallest of ways. Sometimes those people were the ones who came back and hugged me after.

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Something I was not expecting however was to be so utterly blown away by the answers I got. I couldn’t get over just how much people were willing to trust a stranger with. I couldn’t believe by just putting a piece of paper and a pen in front of someone, they could so easily spill their soul, their insecurities, their worries, their heartbreak, their jokes, the colour of their bedroom walls, all of it. No details spared.

Who’d have thought that just by asking strangers to divulge intimate insights into their lives, they would! All people need sometimes is the right outlet.

Some of the things I read moved me to tears. Whether it was the breakdown of a relationship, the start of a family, feelings or displacement or those feelings that you can’t quite put your finger on; there were things I read within those answers that sparked a whole new respect for humanity within me. I wish everyone could read them and I understand that I have been extremely lucky to have had this opportunity, for people to trust me with so much and also to trust me to try and make art out of it.

Sometimes I would just type out direct quotes from people’s answers because I felt they were art, all on their own

The thing I want everyone to realise is just how delicate we can all be. What I learned from that is that given the right context, people are willing to talk about more than on the surface happenings of their lives. I think ultimately what we want is to talk about the things that mean more to us, to make sense of our experience here on this earth. It’s that age-old cliche of “everyone has a story to tell” however it is only through experience that you can begin to understand how powerful that sentiment can be in uniting us together.

I honestly think vulnerability can be one of the most strongest states of being.

I urge all of you to stay vulnerable, stay open and most importantly, be ready to listen. You have no idea what you might learn. One of the messages I wanted to convey to the people I worked with was that their words contain so much beauty and power. I wanted people to realise that they all have an experience or insight or story to share that can benefit other people around them. Everyone has a poem in them, my collection shows just a few of them.

My book Love Poems I Wrote for Strangers is out soon. For updates you can follow me on Instagram: @saltwaterpoetry

If you would like to order your own custom poem before the project ends, you can do so at: http://saltwaterpoetry.bigcartel.com/

Say hi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/saltwaterpoetry

Check out my monthly spoken word night! Rhymes & Records

If you have any questions about the project, you can leave a comment below.