multi-platform writing project: blog 1 – Lives of F poem 1: ‘birth/synchronised swimming.’

 In Poetry

Starting out on UEA’S Creative Writing MA, a benign older poet once scanned the work I’d emailed to him and said ‘you are definitely a writer.’ This comment kind of hits the nail on my particular head. I’ve always known deep down that I’m writer and performance maker without commitment to any one form and I’ve yet to discover whether this is a problem, a gift or both.

Last Autumn I received my first Arts Council England grant for literature. The previous three were for theatre…the kind of projects that pull the guts out of you on all fronts…stretching the limits of what it means to be a functioning human from 6am-12pm. Writing, directing and producing through your own company, while learning to ‘manage people’ and pay the bills offers unusually high peaks of euphoria and surreal, murky troughs. This new project ‘The Multi-Platform Writing’ GftA was meant to fix the issue of split-focus. I would write two days per week for six months while juggling the array of teaching/tutoring I had picked up in my former home-city. Life happened. I’ve since moved house twice (once to a new city) and acquired a full-time role as a musician’s PR out of deep interest, financial necessity and a desire to take care of myself. Although, predictably, the platforms and strategies of this work are feeding my own practise in surprising ways…

Life has imitated art and the multifarious nature of the project has extended beyond the various writing formats (radio/theatre/poetry) and spilled out into the nuts and bolts of how to structure a balanced, healthy life. This has required the most creativity and patience…as I am fast growing out of comfort zones creatively, professionally and socially. Not to mention the fairground of personal stuff that seems to amass around solo creatives.

The project itself has a manifesto – to explore the cross-fertilisation of conventions across formats, within a portfolio covering Radio, Theatre and Film-Poetry. Praise be! Second drafts of the theatre and radio piece are complete, thanks to the stimulating cooperation and hosting of the University of Kent Film School and the mentoring of radio writer, Julie Mayhew.

I would like to share something of the Film-Poetry process and product in this blog as it has been the steepest learning curve. Mentored by Ross Sutherland, this series of narrative poems, tracing the life-cycle of Baby F, feature different modes of performance as extended metaphors. F’s conception and Birth for example are explored through synchronised swimming (specifically that of Golden Age star, Esther Williams) among other things. F’s Adolescence (poem 3) features trampolining…young adulthood resonates with aspects of acting…etc. The first discovery that propelled this small poetry series into wider territory, was the realisation that there are page, film and audio versions of each poem, emerging from the same semantic fields. This is partly down to temporal issues – delivery of pace and cognitive processing are a consideration when packing metaphors together…the question ‘how much can the listener take?’ although funny, has been at the root of most difficult editing decisions when making the films’ audio tracks.

‘Who is my audience and why does it matter?’ has also been central to the drafting process as I have intuitively written phrases and words with a meta-meaning that might not reach every person listening/watching from their screens. Talking with Ross, has thrown this factor into the territory of authorship…not the authorship of poems, but the authorship of poetry at large…who does it ‘belong to’ and who do we wish it to belong to? At some point, a balance has to be struck between your original motivation for spreading the words – getting your voice and world-view out there and an earnest desire to embrace listeners/viewers/readers as generously as possible, with an eye for bringing new engagers into the artform’s magic-circle. Like any relationship, maybe it is best if writers meet audiences halfway, delivering ideas in structural, rhythmic, image packages that are half recognisable and comfortably so. But like any relationship, perhaps the connection can be strengthened by pushing boundaries and risk-taking. Are the conventions of page and ‘performance’ poetry as static as one another and do they both have equally as much scope for furtherance and exploration? I am interested to collect views on this…

For now, here is an audio recording of the first poem in the ‘Lives of F’ cycle: ‘Birth/Synchronised Swimming’. I will be releasing the audio tracks over the next six weeks (prior to the film-poems) and reflecting on the communicative benefits of each format as the project builds a presence online. If you are interested to listen, I would recommend dialling the volume up at least to half-way. Which brings me to my last point on expanding skills and awareness through multi-platform making – I am learning how to edit audio and film in two separate pieces of software, which could be likened to learning a modern language without any foundation…please understand that the quality of recordings will sound more refined as the weeks ware on. I hope you enjoy, and feel free to add comments within the perimeters of niceness! Thanks for reading. T x

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