Tag Archives: poem houses

So, I was doing something else, but in my research, I came across this amazing project on The Guardian website and I thought I would share it here (also so that I won’t forget about it).

The idea of representing the structure of a book in three dimensions is, of course, not new – I mean artist’s book makers do this routinely, but I like the cross-over of literary work and model making. It also reminded me of both the tunnel books and, of course, the poem houses we have been making at some of the Writing in Creative Practice workshops.

And thinking of the structure of writing as having a shape is something that can be incredibly useful when writing. I have been sketching models of how my research is organised for both my Masters and my PhD – and in a way am doing something similar with the quilt (which is the thing I was doing when I was getting sidetracked, so more on my progress on that in a future post). I know that Pat Francis encourages her students to describe the shape of their writing to identify more clearly where they are going – is it a Christmas tree? is it an hourglas? is it a number of blocks that are fitting together like a dry-stone wall (or do they need to be moved and shaped slightly to make the fit work)? – and seeing how the argument develops and where the evidence is presented.

Right, just thought I would share this. Going back to work now…

I have been sent this little film of what happened at the workshop in Ayr, just in case you couldn’t make it, but were wondering what we got up to in Scotland.


Thank you to Jamie Hare for filming and putting this together for us!

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.

bags waiting for participants to arrive

bags waiting for participants to arrive

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.

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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…).

Igniting Anything - my poem house

Igniting Anything – my poem house

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!

This week I stumbled across poem houses. There they were, waiting in an article in a journal that had been on my shelf for the better part of the year. And I had no idea until I pulled out a number of these journals to give to a student and idly flicked through them. Luckily said poem houses caught my eye and consequently that one journal issue didn’t make it to my student’s bag, but my own instead.

As explained in ‘Sense making through poem houses: an arts-based approach to understanding leadership’ by Louise Grisoni and Brigid Collins (Visual Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1, March 2012, 35-47), poem houses have been developed by Brigid Collins as “three dimensional artefacts combining visual interpretation with poetic text and which hold a special significance for the maker.” (35) Using examples and testimonials from a workshop on leadership development, the article is a fascinating insight into using this format/genre as a focus for reflection. And of course I read this wondering how it could be applied in my learning and teaching. I will definitely try to make my own one of these days, but in the mean time, you can see some examples here.

I have also managed to find some more writing by both Collins and Grisoni, which might be more food for thought.