So last week, Sarah and myself made our way to the first Writing in Creative Practice workshop to be held in Scotland. We had been invited to come to the Ayr campus of The University of the West of Scotland by Alison Bell, who had been at the very first of these workshops in Stoke-on-Trent, and we had been talking ever since to make this happen.
The idea behind the programming of the day was to particularly look at collage, but more in the direction of reflection than the recent Chester workshop had been, which was very much about interpretation of text I felt. And of course we had set it up so that participants could have a go themselves. Intitially (after making our own name tags), Sarah introduced reflective notetaking in book form, with a particular look at poetic inquiry and its roots in Dada (as well as referencing the songwriting of David Bowie).
After lunch, Alison shared her experiences of working with collage as a methods of enquiry as part of her PhD. This was a very thought- and personal reflection on her work, which (for me) particularly made the point that it is not only the collages that can be interpreted, but that taking photographs of them then allow their interpretations from mutliple perspectives, again changing what one is able to see in them (and in extension in the work).
The next part of the day was given over to just that exploration of words in not just two but three dimensions. Brigid Collins introduced us to her work on poem houses, and with the help of some handy template boxes, participants were encouraged to take their two dimensional collage into the third dimension. Brigid had also given everybody a haiku as a possible starting point. A really intensive working period followed, where people were working on both two and three dimensional visual reflection.
To bring everybody back to the university context, I then introduced a way of using collage as a way of thinking about collating a literature review, and particularly for explaining to students the difference between a literature review and an annotated bibliography (something I seem to have trouble at in my teaching). I will blog about this in more detail soon.
In order to collect feedback, we used an activity that Sarah had recently tried with her students: we gave everybody a page of notes from the back of a found book of a greek play (I think), asking them to pick out three words and expain how these three words reflected their experience of the workshop. Because the notes were quite academic and sometimes included translations of greek and latin terms, the found words were really interesting and the feedback in places was almost lyrical.
Overall it was a great day – on our way back we were already making plans on a future event, so keep your eyes peeled for that (though of course it might take another year for that to actually happen…).
Here is a picture of my ‘poem house’ (slightly unfinished as yet). It was inspired by a David Bowie quote in a video clip Sarah showed: “igniting anything that might be in my imagination” and a Conquergood quote that popped up in Alison’s presentation “braiding together of disparate and stratified ways of knowing” (2003). I liked the idea of igniting and found a map of islands at least some of which I thought might well be volcanic, and liking the idea of braiding things together, I cut them into strips according to the longtitude. So far I didn’t do any braiding, but that might still come!