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> > > Review: Together 2012: 

Open Poetry Workshop with CoolTan Arts
digitised image of a hand holding letters spelling the word 'poetry'

Richard Downes attends an Open Poetry Workshop in the Garden Café with CoolTan Arts and finds like minds and a sense of community

Together 2012 is a launch pad rocketing culture in Newham to the skies. In addition to performance and participation it identifies new arts venues, enables access in new community arts settings through provision of adaptations and is the source of new projects with sustainable shelf lives.

I am attending an Open Poetry Workshop in the Garden Café, Cundy Road, a bright, colourful community café where advocacy is facilitated, isolation is broken down and where arts and community groups meet to practice their own interests. The staff are committed to being there for you who ever you are and what ever it is that takes you there.

CoolTan’s Elaine Clarke sets a gentle pace exercising green and grey poets, who set to prove poetic possibilities with gusto. Exercise 1. Take these 4 words; ‘When, Because, I, Now’ as sentence or paragraph starters and let your creative impulses flow. Latecomers find themselves supported, facilitated and welcomed as additions to the group regardless of missed time and ability. We can work together happily.

Things start to get a bit sticky for me. I am learning that poetry is personal and things I want to express may not be political at this time. I am in deep water. But find myself swimming as I take the honesty blinker off and challenge myself to only give that which I feel comfortable with. So it is when asked to respond to the question, ‘one thing that you would change?’ This comes out:

“I’d have to change the end

So the end could start again

Life becomes refreshed

With nothing burned or sacred.”

Samantha had called for more workshops like this. Gary wished for more park benches and John required a cleaner planet. We move outward and upward from our atomics to the cosmos. Poets describe the lives we live, the times we know, human things we do or don’t do.

It’s time for one of the generous breaks but we cannot leave each other now. We are friendly and together in thrall to lines and rhyme. We talk only poetry. We are eager to explore it, understand it, discuss it. It seems to be something that comes from inside us, articulates to a wider nation those things that need to be said. Power is in the room. It’s familial. There is no thing that won’t inspire us. We have our words, our voices speak, our ideas appreciated.

From kick off to final whistle we wrote together, spoke together, shared together. Now others are appearing for the garden café’s much appreciated, medal winning food. The new voices are from other workshops that happened in Together 2012’s ‘Week of Words’. It is a meeting of the tribes. We will perform in front of each other without artifice, without fretting, reticence, shyness or fear of camera. We want to contribute to the website, to the compendium that will arise and most of all we want a regular poetry group that could tour pop poetry events across the borough. We are talking about bringing poets in, having speakers, learning, creating, working. It seems that nothing will stop us now. We are the stars that our poetic ship will gravitate towards. As Ju Gosling put it when asked what she would change:

“If I could change one little thing

It wouldn’t take a lot

To join us all together

And tie a lasting knot.”

The spirit of Together has got us now. Newham it started here. On the 1st December 2012. Disabled people of all shapes, sizes and hues, talents and attributes, green horns, grey hairs, practiced poets and newbies – working, sharing, planning together. What work will ensue before together 2013.

Happy New Year.

Together 2012 continues until 22 December. Click on this link for further details