Beyond The Mic Poetry workshop Recap

8:40:00 PM

On Thursday 21st – Monday 25th February, I have the honor to facilitate a 3 day poetry workshop at PAWA254’s new space; The Pawa Hub.I called the workshop Beyond the Mic to encourage poets to think beyond the mic, the open mic. Poetry has so much to offer both to the world and the poets themselves.

Day 1 - Writing Basics
Where are you?
The attendees ranged from poets, journalism students and musicians and their inspirations included influence from groups they hang around with, a heart to inspire others and hardships faced. To get common ground, I used the first part as a measure of where the attendees are in their writing and knowledge of arts in Kenya. I asked them to name five Kenyan poets and no one answered so I broadened it to five Kenyan musicians and it was hard for some of the poets to finish the five count, when asked to name five writers in Kenya, the count was worse.
To stress the importance of knowing your history and surrounding, I showed the attendees a Youtube Clip from the movie, The Devil wear Prada - Cerulean Sweater Theory

The best way to write
I asked the attendees to mention random things done in the morning before they came for the workshop and the below listed were mentioned. I further asked them to arrange the activities in the correct order.
1.       Repair
2.       Laundry
3.       Breakfast
4.       Workshop
5.       FB/Twitter/Phone
6.       Meditation
7.       Brush teeth
8.       Travel
Each group had a different order which they held true, some began with meditation, while others did FB/Twitter…some brushed their teeth before breakfast while some brushed just before they left the house.
The two activities; the clip and the ordering the list were an introduction to writing and why, the who, the how, the where. The clip resonated three problems the writers agreed with me most writers ‘suffer from’ – Carefreeness, Laziness and Arrogance/Ignorance; that there is usually no basis of their writing nor do they do justice to the title writer because they write to write.

The second activity recounted that there is no formular to writing, there are rules to be obey that differentiate mediocrity from ‘proper art work’ but no 1 + 1 formular. I emphasized the fact that their two main reasons people write; to be read or to be performed. The rules, formats and styles follow after deciding why you want to write and secondarily who you want to write for (Audience).

Practice writing
After the break, we did practice writing and the attendees engaged in two activities; the first was to look back into their past, things that have happened and write a five line I remember poem.
The second activity was to go out to the graffiti on the outside walls, soak the environment in and write a piece on what they saw.
They all brought different experiences to the table in the first activity and more so different interpretations of the environment outside. This was also a show that different pieces provoke different emotions in different audiences.
I showed the attendees a clip by Poet Sitawa Namwalie on the names of victims of PEV and emphasized on the use of the third eye.  I further introduced the ‘6 sense of writing’ below using poetry pieces; Telephone Conversation by Wole Soyinka and White Comedy by Benjamin Zephania
-          Characters
-          Theme
-          Setting
-          Plot
-          Styles and Stylistic Devices
-          The 3rd eye (Curiosity, Research)

Q & A
I open the floor for discussion about writing in general, the discussions ranged from using sheng as a language for writing to the ‘dilemma’ of commercialization of art vs sticking to the art for art’s sake. 

Day 2 – Performance
I recapped the main points from the previous session on writing basics and asked the attendees to use the points to write a ‘Where I am from piece’ which they all read out loud.
After this exercise, we watched a Youtube Clip on Jamaican Poet, Stacey Ann Chin’s Performance then I introduced four main points about performing;

1.       Living your words – Being familiar with them
2.       Engaging your audience – Not sticking to your guide notes but having a conversation with them
3.       Importance of an intro and outro – What makes the audience get glued to your work and what makes them remember it
4.       Identifying anchors and maximizing on them

Performance Practice
The attendees engaged in two activities; the first was to rewrite the ‘Where I am from’ piece based on the corrections given when reading them out and including the four points on performance plus points picked from StaceyAnn Chin’s performance.
The second activity was a game of charades to help them employ the use of actions in their performances to engage the audience. The game had two words; a noun and a verb and it was amazing how they worked hard to create the actions without making a sound.
They then performed their pieces and got peer review on things they need to work on and things they did very well.

Day 3 – Packaging/Marketing/Selling
How to;
Given the wideness of the topic, I narrowed the day’s discussion to;
1.       Ways to package your work
2.       The Role social media in marketing; the different types and their uses
3.       Pricing, negotiating and contract signing
4.       Branding yourself

I gave a chance to all those in attendance to say what they learnt in the workshop and struggles they face in their writing.

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