When the Poetry School asked if I’d like to run a course of my own choosing, I asked myself what I might have needed support with at some other time.
As it turns out, commissions and residencies can be transformative ways of learning about your own practice. Having undertaken a number of these last year, two of which were deeply immersive and involved presenting some kind of work at their ends, I’m now a lot more familiar with the way my brain responds to prompts, pressure, and the need answer back with poetry. Being now on the other side of these experiences, it felt right to draw up a course that could assist other poets in a similar position.
No two commissions or residencies are made equal. The various amounts of time, support, context and money that are offered play a role in determining how rewarding you will find such work. Additionally, there are moments when the whole idea of writing ‘to demand’ feels completely disingenuous. This is tough. It is also useful. It is what prompts us to check our own sense of values about what we want our work to offer, which is not a futile question to ask ourselves as poets, not is it one we should stop asking. Defining the limits of what we are capable of (versus what we aspire to) creates the space with padded walls in which to play.
The biggest trick I’ve found is not to ask what the work/stimuli/subject matter wants from you, but what you need from it. You do not need to invest too much time asking what it is you need to do. This is laid out in your contract. The real questions are: From what angle are you approaching what’s in front of you? And through what lens? What, in all of the many details you’re processing, stands out to you? Why do you think it does so? Is there something to it than you can see? All of these questions will lead you back to yourself – your curious, playful self, the only one that create the kind of that you might actually like, and hopefully return to. Ironically, no matter what project you are hard at work on, the stimuli is always also you.
Over the course of the Creative Response Studio, we’ll keep digging by asking these questions in response to a number of different sets of material. We’ll explore how to push through blocks, mass-information and, as can happen, plain boredom. We will also consider how to match your creative exercises to your stimuli – how to tailor your written experiments to your subject matter. I’ll share some of the things I’ve learned – and continue to learn – are helpful in my own work. Hopefully they’ll prove useful to you too.
Apply best practice to poetry commissions and residencies on Victoria Adukwei Bulley’s Creative Response Studio: Finding Our Why. Book online or ring us on 020 7582 1679.