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Lo and Behold – the latest

At the beginning of the year, we put out a call to poets and artists to surprise us with innovative poetry promoting ideas. Five of them did … and we were able to fund each of them with £750 to get their projects off the ground. Here’s how they’re getting on so far …


Caleb Parkin / Could Be The Moon – Chainmail for Nicky Morgan

The gist of the project: a series of open email-chain-letters (‘chainmails’) generating new work that links and creates dialogue between the disciplines of poetry, visual art, science, technology and engineering.

Caleb writes ‘When your main form of interface is via email – a medium wherein we all receive copious junkmail, campaigns, sales messages – the odd phone call pays dividends. After the first email Provocation was a hefty government report on Innovation, I recognised that the Provocations needed to be a page or two of A4 to respond to – or it became a little overwhelming as another thing to receive in your inbox.

That containment was vital, to keep the responses finite and share-able; so the format became a one or two page Provocation, then responses that were also between one and two pages. My hope was then that five lots of five responses will create quite a neat little 25-30 page publication. So we’re in the process of plugging gaps, with my supporting those who found some of the content tricky to engage with, creatively and amidst their busy working lives.

Another thing the project has given me is a renewed appreciation of how, as artists, one’s thinking is flexible, fluid and adaptable. This is not to say that those in STEM careers don’t have that, but to emphasise that those who are going to generate real impact and (I’m hesitant to use the word) innovation through their work are those who have both scientific rigour and creativity.

For me, receiving an obscure document or curious image is an invitation to explore multiple ‘routes-in’, ways of remaking and responding to the text – and I am always creating, developing and learning new approaches. That’s a skill all artists have and can certainly share with STEM practitioners; just as a rigour, process and attention to detail are facets of STEM practitioners’ practice from which artists can learn a great deal.’

Parasitology Provocation

Parasitology Response

Thirteen Ways of Seeing The Eye
(after Wallace Stevens)

As it crosses the beam,
the pale black dot of the eye
shrinks at its own reflection.

The clinical backroom of Specsavers
turns the back of my eyes into the star
on screen: gooseberry, Mars, Titan.

A Scotch Bonnet ricochets under
my eyelid: these fiery tears; this watery breath.

For all these years, the tears
I had thought so authentic, the stream
of emotion to the eyes, the ‘windows to the soul’,
had a little duct. I spotted it, at 28 years old, two holes
by the nose where saltwater is piped: How stagey,
I remember thinking, How Disney.
These municipal waterworks.

His muzzle crinkles, but my thumbs
venture to the centre of his eyes.
I extract the black crust from his fur.

There was a many-legged time
before eyes could even see red.

The rough chunk of bark had flown
into orbit beneath my eyeball:
Stop, Mum says, Don’t blink.

Just once, the Sun glared back without
searing my eye, scorching my iris. Just once.

She sold her phone to raise the money.
Now her eyes are those of a zombie.
‘They itch,’ she observes.

For the Herschels, the eyes
were not enough for their part-
time hobby of Mapping
the Known Universe.

It wasn’t me that teased
that bloody Lama, but it was my eye
in which it saw fit to so expertly spit.

Eye for eye; tooth for tooth;
word for word.

Take a ticket: take your pick
from my glistening fins, this bed
of icy eyes.


Alistair Cartwright / Different Skies – Answers to the Rented World

The gist of the project: A series of poetic postcards exploring the duplicity at the core of London’s housing crisis, together with a sunset walking tour.

Alistair writes ‘After much street haunting we’re getting closer to the moment of turning all those aleatory encounters – with the grand, the downtrodden, the vacant and the fugitive – into physical things, i.e. postcards, perhaps one of the cheapest consumer goods, the paper equivalent of a 1p sweet. It feels strange but we hope after the practicalities of print and distribution get sorted, which may take a while, this second phase will be another act of dispersal and urban wandering, in its own way, as opposed to gloss-lam petrification. And then of course there’ll be the walk  we intend to organise, following a route based on some of the places we’ve been. We’re focussing a few mile radius centred on the Poetry School itself, so it should be revealing, drilling down into layers otherwise familiar on the surface. ‘The only travel is downward travel’.’

parking space poem image

Parking space
Investments grand

Lights off

Perimeter silent
Guarding it


digging our wealth poem imageDigging our
Wealth from
The basement

One postcode
Britain’s greatest
Property debt

£640 million
To the future


incognito prince poem image





Incognito prince
Celestial prison streets

Where after-hours
Doctors dine
In book-lined,

And the city rips up
The night


Kirsten Irving – Run: A Battle Royale Memorial

The gist of the project: an immersive poetry show based on the cult Japanese thriller Battle Royale.

Kirv rehearsalKirsten writes ‘RUN runs on apace! Our scratch date is now booked for 23rd June 2015 at the Betsey Trotwood in Farringdon, in their suitably red, black and Lynchily atmospheric downstairs room. It’s FREE but seats are limited, so please email me at [email protected] to bagsy a spot. And do visit our gif-tastic new website (was there ever a more giffable movie?).

The evening will be a double-header with the scratch for a new show by the fantastic performance artist Rebecca Wigmore. Both pieces will examine cinema and the audience, the main difference being that hers will involve a robot Jimmy Stewart and mine will involve party bags.

The setlist is pretty much set, though rehearsals will no doubt bring more and more edits, as we trim the roster of poems down to around 45 minutes total. An excellent suggestion from Tamar, my director, was to include a lighter piece. Not only will this alleviate the relentless darkness, but it will also serve to make the whole piece more sinister when it dips back into the cartoon violence. For this, I’ve drafted in a cameo from one of the characters in the novel who gets far less of a showing in the movie, Girl No.1, Mitsuho Inada, who believes she is a fantasy warrior princess receiving instructions from her God of Light. Unfortunately for her, she chooses to take on the most deadly male in the killing game, Kazuo Kiriyama. I’ll give you one guess as to how that ends.

Kirv rehearsal 2One of the problems facing any live literature venture is how to lift material out of the traditional reading mode or off the page and make it a compelling spectacle. Poetry is notoriously hard to concentrate on for extended periods. I regularly go to poetry events and struggle with set lengths over 10-15 minutes, so one of the challenges we face is keeping an audience engaged and entertained for the span of a full-length show. We’re experimenting with voiceover, mime, projections, physical copies of the poems and a decent amount of costume changes. I’m basically going to be like Cher, if Cher were a homicidal teenager.

That’s RUN so far! I’ll be tweeting updates from the Tumblr from @KoftheTriffids, and you can also follow the blog for updates. Suggestions for audience extras and Easter eggs most welcome, though I can’t promise a fully functioning death collar.’



Wordquake, Bridlington Poetry Festival, Sewerby Hall and Ian Duhig

The gist of the project: Ian Duhig will create a series of poetry interventions at Sewerby Hall, Bridlington, in response to its recent renovations and its position as a silent witness to some remarkable historical events.

We are working with Ian on the proudction of a CAMPUS pamphlet, so you’ll be able to read all the poems very shortly …

Workers of Art and Wise Words Festival  – Invisible Kisses

The gist of the project: poet Lemn Sissay, singer songwriter Emily Watts, dancers Rachel Birch-Lawson and Khyle Eccles and projection artist Pete Wallace explore the potential of a multi-disciplinary response to Lemn’s poem ‘Invisible Kisses.’

This project has come to an end now, and is resting in search of additional funding to take it to its next stage. Beth Cueno from Workers of Art blogs on her own site here.

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