I have overdosed on poetry … My head is crammed with words but I don’t know how to get them out. The Shake the Dust weekend at the Southbank Centre in London was an explosion of emotions and an overload of impressions. I’ll share ten of my finest moment, in no order of importance:
1. The Point is the Poetry
As the North West team pointed out on stage: Shake the Dust has not been about winning or losing: the point is not the point – the point is the poetry! The American poets who came over were impressed by the way Shake the Dust was run because it was so much about bonding over words and so little about battling. Even in the middle of the final I forgot it was a competition and found myself cheering and whooping for other teams than my own
2. Standing Ovations
When Kate Tempest ran off stage and out into the audience to do a poem I felt as excited as when seeing my favourite rock band at a festival. And to see a poet get standing ovations in a full Queen Elizabeth Hall is close to magic, no it is magic, no metaphor needed
3. Performance Skill Workshops
The poetry coaches and shadow artists ran workshops where the teams were mixed up and got a chance to get to know each other at the same time as improving their performance skills. I assisted my coach Mike Parker in a workshop where we got the young poets to practise their facial expressions. Can you guess what feeling they are acting out in the picture above?
4. Poetry Ciphers
I’d never heard the expression before but a poetry cipher is when a bunch of people gather in a circle in the street and anyone can get up and perform something whether it’s a song or a poem or anything else they want to share. This was happening all through the weekend at the Southbank and passers-by were stopping and joining in
5. The Birth of New Poems
To have one of my students running towards me with a flapping paper saying “I want to share a poem” in her most excited voice is so rewarding, something I hoped would happen by working with young people, having the poetry come from them with no force
6. Writing Workshops
I took part in one of the writing workshops run by American collective First Wave where the students collaborated to make a piece on the theme of superheroes. Making our own words mate with other people’s words is beautiful
7. New Friends
On the last morning it was a joy to watch the kids running around and swapping phone numbers and Twitter names with each other. Hugs and handshakes. Laughter and tears in equal measures
Not only the kids made new friends. I came home with a wad of business cards in my wallet. I don’t necessarily want to make business with all the other poetry coaches and shadows, but I do hope to keep in touch and share new ideas within the growing poetry community
9. Swearing in Italian
There were quite a few difficult issues that were brought up in the poems, in the work performed by adults as well as kids. Lively debates and thoughtful conversations were going on all over the place. I had an interesting discussion with one of the young poets what effect a swear word can have – is it self expression or just showing off? I don’t have an answer, but late at night a fellow poet taught me how to swear in Italian …
10. Poetry Brought me to London
Crossing the Thames by the footbridge a poet exclaimed: “I’d never thought that poetry would bring me to London!”. This was the case for a lot of people involved in Shake the Dust. Some of the young people had never been to London before and how many teenagers can say that they’ve been on stage in Queen Elizabeth Hall? Personally I felt the same. As a small-town Swedish girl I’d only dreamed of being involved in something as inspiring and fantastic as Shake the Dust
“This is not the end – it’s only the beginning!” That’s what one of the young poets said when giving me a final high five. So true. Let’s continue to Shake the Dust …!
This is all from me for this time. Thank you for reading. And a big thank you to everyone who made this happen.