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October 2010

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BSix celebrates National Poetry Day with Michael Rosen

“You can tell a piece of paper whatever you like ... talk through your pen ... a piece of paper is your friend.” Michael Rosen

On Thursday 7th October BSeven and the BSix Library team were overjoyed to welcome Michael Rosen to celebrate National Poetry Day with us at BSix. Michael generously gave his time to run two workshops, encouraging students to share their poetry with him and each other. The demand for both sessions was brilliant and we were incredibly impressed by not only the amazing variety of work produced and shared but also the variety of students who attended; students studying in all departments and at all levels in the college worked hand-in-hand to give each other praise and constructive feedback on their work.

Michael sat and read through students’ work prepared especially for the workshop, written during the session itself and even remembered from the past (nobody in the workshop could fail to be impressed by BSeven Officer Ian’s word-perfect recollection of a poem he wrote at school aged just 11!) Michael shared his passion for poetry, encouraging the students to see “the poem as possibility” and “to use poetry as an inspiration.” The students were also given some great technical advice, from focusing on phrases within their work to create new poems (one student, Toyin, produced a particularly powerful piece using this idea within the short session itself!) to using repetition to create effective rhythms and highlighting the performance aspect of poetry by reading poetry over drum n’ bass. Unfortunately nobody had any drum n’ bass to hand, but the room was transformed into a group performance when Michael read one of his poems against the backdrop of the students whispering haunting repeated words.

What the workshops really proved was the great power poetry is instilled with when read aloud. Tatty sheets of notepaper were transformed into powerful performances; words transformed once shared. Some students allowed Michael to read their work to the group on their behalf; his enthusiasm, passion and linguistic expertise making the words leap off the page, especially in the case of the deep emotions expressed in ESOL student Mokhtar’s love song. Michael also treated us to a selection of his own poetry, explaining his inspirations and the process of turning these ideas into a shareable form and creating rhythm. Particularly apt was a new piece about the number 38 bus, celebrating the diversity of the bus route that begins and ends at BSix’s home on the Lea Bridge Roundabout.

The great atmosphere of the workshop meant most students needed little encouragement to read aloud their own, often highly personal, work. Everyone was particularly impressed by Shirley’s performance of a dramatic poetry piece in progress and Daze’s hybrid of poetry and MCing preaching the message of safe sex was great proof that poetry can indeed come from the most diverse of inspiration and can be expressed in a similarly diverse way.

The poetry workshops were such a success that Michael Rosen has asked to return to BSix on a monthly basis and is making plans to involve the students in local projects. There are also exciting plans to produce a book of the student’s poetry in what promises to be a great celebration of their endless creativity, imagination and originality. Michael may be right, “everyone is a writer” – but we are simply spoiled for talent at BSix.

For Michael Rosen's website please click here