Remaking the World: writing a new poem for ‘Telling Tales’

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Monkey figure from telling tales exhibition Here's a blog from Liverpool-based poet, Eleanor Rees who has been collecting stories and tales from visitors to our 'Telling Tales' exhibition. Two weeks ago I spent a couple of afternoons in the ‘Telling Tales’ exhibition running afternoon drop-in writing activities with young people. On Sunday 1st Sept I will return to the gallery to present a new poem written with the words, phrases and strange creatures which happened when we were imagining flying, dancing or living under the sea. 'Poetry is, I think, always a form of play, even the most serious of poems are creative responses to the difficult circumstances. In this project this new poem will be suitable for children and adults as it draws on the responses to a series of creative questions I asked the young people in response to the exhibition. As ‘Telling Tales’ is about the art of Indian Storytelling, and the art that is integral to it, I chose to focus on using our visual imagination to imagine characters and places, also finding similarities between the world of the story scrolls and our lives here in Liverpool. So I focussed on ‘Local Tales’ by which I meant to think about how the magical stories of the exhibition could also happen in the streets of Liverpool. I asked the children the questions: You are half-human, half-animal. What do you look like? You live in Merseyside, but where? You decide? You have a magic power? What can you do? Tell me something important? What is your character doing today? So now I have a menagerie of 15 or so half-animal, half-human hybrids roaming the streets of Merseyside, looking for something to do. They’ve come here through a landscape of fairgrounds, zoos and docklands from homes in a flower’s petals or at the bottom of the river. Detail of  painting by Kelam Patua Detail of painting by Kelam Patua The creative challenge for me is to now bring all of these discrepancies into play in the same poem. By this I mean bring them into relationship with each other. It will be quite a noisy poem I think. To do this I’ve drawn a picture, a rather basic map of all the different features of this landscape which has been collectively imagined and I’ve also made a chart of who’s who! Placing them in space and time is important to understand what they might be doing. This project is part of my Creative Writing PhD on ‘Reimagining the Local Poet’ with University of Exeter. Using participative processes in the creation of new poetry I see as an opening out of the same creative process which creates everything, from poems to gardens. I have to turn over the soil, or break an idea down into its respective parts using the context I’m working within to find the form and content of the poetry. I can’t change the weather; the context provides the limits. Poems are made then through a process of interpretation i.e. an analysis, a breaking down into parts of the subject, and then, crucially this content is rearranged and reanimated through the use of poetic language to re-make up the poem, or germinate the seed. The root meaning of the word Poet is ‘Poiesis’ from Ancient Greek meaning ‘to make’. Also in Welsh ‘Baird’, Irish Gaelic ‘Fili’ and Scots ‘Maaker’ all carry the connotation of former or maker. In Anglo Saxon the ‘Scop’ was a ‘shaper’. These are all active verbs. Poetry then is an action, something that we do to and with the material stuff which is being alive. If you’re around on Sunday 1 pm in the ‘Telling Tales’ exhibition do come and join me to hear how I’ve got along. Copies of the poem will be available and the final poem will also be posted on this site. Feedback always welcome.'