Recently I’ve had quite a bit of success with having poetry published for kids, in both magazines and book-based anthologies, with the most recent being the inclusion of no less than seven of my poems in the gorgeous anthology, A Boat of Stars (edited by Margaret Connolly and Natalie Jane Prior, published by ABC Books, Harper Collins Australia 2018). That’s generated quite a bit of demand for me to give poetry workshops, both for kids and adults. For one such workshop, which was for an audience of speech and drama teachers, I came up with a new concept which I’ve called Page to Voice, Pen to Performance and which focuses on the oral and dramatic aspects of improvised poetry in a simple, engaging and accessible way. I thought other people might be interested in the concept–and I’m very happy for anyone to freely use it in their own workshops, just with due acknowledgement of the originator, ie me. :-)
Here’s how it works: You choose a theme to build a poetic concept around first. In the case of the workshop I gave, I chose to build that poetic concept around something we know well and use in both performance and speech: our bodies, and specifically, five parts of the body: feet, hands, mouth, eyes, ears.
Then I used three different frameworks to use that concept with: body as music; body as metaphor; and body as mini-drama, to create three simple poems which are designed to be spoken and performed, but which also work on the page. The point, too, is they are improvisational: You shouldn’t think about them much at all, they are ‘instant poems;’ I made these up in just a few minutes.
So here goes:
Body as music:
Start the beat!
Join the band!
My word, that’s gone south—
Cheering should be done by mouth!
Body as metaphor
They say eyes are the windows of the soul–
So tell me, where’s the door?
Let me think–
The mouth, of course.
And what’s the ears then?
Well–the verandah perhaps,
Where soul can sit and listen
To all that’s going on.
And the hands, in this house of ours where the soul lives—
What are they?
Hmm-maybe the aerial? The chimney?
Ha! And the feet—
They make that soul-house get up and walk
On magic feet, on chicken feet
Down the paths of imagination.
PS: the reference to a house with chicken feet is from the old Russian fairy tale of Baba Yaga the witch, whose house, mounted on chicken feet, could roam through the forest)
Body as mini-drama
Overheard in a haunted house:
What’s that? say ears,
I don’t know, says mouth.
It’s them, say eyes,
Let’s get out of here, say feet.
But the hands can’t speak—
Something very cold has touched them.
(All poems copyright Sophie Masson)
This idea can be adapted in any kind of way you like. For instance the central poetic concept could be around food, or animals, or colours, or whatever you like, and you can also add more frameworks to the three basic ones I’ve used in this workshop. This template can also be adapted according to the students or audience you are working with, and you can use any poem style.
Hope you find it useful–and enjoy!
Over to you: would love to hear your experiences of poetry workshops, whether giving them or attending them!