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Archive for November, 2009

This autumn I was hugely privileged to be given a sponsored place on Pascale Petit’s Poetry from Art course at Tate Modern, courtesy of the wonderful London literature organisation Spread the Word. Over the past six weeks I’ve been part of a dedicated group of writers exploring poetry in relation to installations and artworks in the Tate Modern galleries, from Baldessari’s strange, pulsating Braincloud to Tracey Emin’s retrospectives in the current Pop Life exhibition. I’ve been writing poems in response to art for some time now, playing around with ‘ekphrasis’. As someone who’s done quite a lot of personal writing, I find it a particularly good way to step outside of myself and venture into new and often unexpected territory. The course has been a great way to develop this practise – Pascale has challenged us to approach poetry in new ways, responding not only to the artwork, but to other art-inspired poems and to each others’ stories and thoughts, as a way to feed our writing.

Tomorrow night (Monday 23 November) I’ll be taking part in a reading to celebrate the end of the course, in the Baldessari exhibition at Tate Modern. Here’s one of the poems I’ll be sharing, as a sneak preview…

Head Space
After Baldessari’s ‘Braincloud’

My grandmother hid her brain
in a cupboard, behind stacked plates.
She brought it kitchen scraps
fed it stories, gossip, TV facts
her daughters’ phonecalls, forecasts
foreign words, whole chapters
out of novels, recipes for love wounds
or smoked mackerel, once
an erotic letter, pulsing under breath.
Her brain inhaled these gifts
as moisture swells to raincloud.
Eye pressed to hinge, I watched
as, camouflaged within white china
it grew to the size of a sky.

You can read more about the event, and book tickets HERE although word on the street says it’s sold out.

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Buildings reflected in 'The Bean' in Millennium Park, Chicago

So, I’m back from Chicago, though I’m trying my hardest to pretend I’m still there. Last week was, without any doubt, one of the most incredible experiences of my life so far. I’m still digesting, thinking about the best way to convey just how powerful it was. I’ve been walking around smiling, like a person who’s just fallen in love. And this love is going to last a long time… for the city, for the people I met there and for the work that’s going on at Oak Park & River Forest High School, through poet and educator Peter Kahn and his Spoken Word Club.

I’m beginning to write about my experiences through poems (which aren’t ready to be public yet) and on the SLAM in Chicago blog (which I’ll be contributing to more as the week goes on). I planned to keep a steady diary while I was out there, but there was so much going on that what I have is more of a map of the trip, with some diary entries, notes, lesson plans, poems, feedback notes for students and Peter’s hand-drawn attempt at explaining the Chicago grid system to me (I’ll make sure that image appears soon). I’ll be back with more. Still thinking.

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Yes, it is really happening – I’m off to Chicago with the London Teenage Poetry SLAM for a week of poetry, performance and (I’m expecting) life-changing experience… Together with Artistic Director Jacob Sam-La Rose, poet and SLAM coach Shane Solanki and eight talented young poets from Kingsford Community School in Newham, I’ll be hosted by Oak Park River Forest High School in Chicago. Needless to say, I can’t wait… and I should really get some sleep.

I’ll be keeping a diary while I’m out there and will definitely fill you in when I get back…

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Facebook ImageMy second Snail Mail: Creative Letter Writing Workshop of the season took place on Saturday 31 October at Foyles, in our lovely meeting room just above Charing Cross Road. Ten enthusiastic participants wrote new letters and shared stories and thoughts about writing and communication. To give a flavour of the workshops and to celebrate the originality and creativity of the writers, I’d  to share some of those new letters here. Two generous ladies have agreed to contribute… one remains anonymous. Both of their letters came from an exercise where I ask participants to list significant people, objects, places, emotions etc. and then choose one to write a letter to. The results are eclectic and exciting…

Letter to Flirtatiousness

Dear flirtatiousness,

I have an interesting relationship with you, flirtatiousness, and I often wish that I could feel more comfortable with your presence in my life.

I love you for your humour and warmth. You bring complete strangers under your wing and giggle a while with them.

So why do I feel guilty – a little ashamed to admit the fun we feel when we play together on someone’s mind like an impish confidence that knows its power and enjoys it.

Perhaps I am afraid of my reliance on you to get me through the boredom, and of the weight of infatuation that you can bring. You are a cheeky bastard who I can’t resist, but resent the power you hold.

I love to laugh with you and with my friends, but know there’s more depth to life than you’ll ever know how to share, and I fear you lack respect for your prey. I, however, care for them deeply, and though we play together I have written to tell you that I am always going to stand up against your power, and love.

All the best,

G

Letter to My Flat

Dear Flat,

You are flat number 2, 9 Sherwood Rise as listed above. It took me ages to find you, those 7 years ago and we’ve seen so many good and bad times together. I feel like I’m writing a love letter. I know I don’t spend much time with you at the moment but I crave you when I’m away. Sometimes I only come in to take something from you but I’m sorry for being selfish. I did paint you a lovely red colour though. You can be so cold sometimes and the double glazing doesn’t help. And I don’t mean to be horrible when I say ‘I wish I had a garden’- although we’ve grown so many plants together, it would be nice to get fresh air, like I said the double glazing doesn’t help. Without being cheesy, you have been my sanctuary and the neighbours have heard that. Actually, was it you who called the police when I was smashing everything? Anyway this is really to say thanks for being there for me and accommodating me, especially when I have been out of order, really out of order. You share a lot of secrets with me that I haven’t told a soul. It’s funny when we laugh secretly and mischievously isn’t it? I promise to spend more time with you and maybe we should have a nice night in like we used to- your choice of food.

Lots of love,
Di xx

Diana Ali is a Visual Artist & Curator. She is doing some very exciting work around text, correspondence and connectivity.

www.post-authorship.blogspot.com
www.dianaalidefamiliarization.blogspot.com
www.olfactionexhibition.blogspot.com

The next Snail Mail workshop takes place on Saturday 28 November 11am – 1pm at Foyles, Charing Cross. Visit www.foyles.co.uk/events and scroll down to book your place.

There is also a Slow Down London Day on Saturday 21 November, with a whole range of slow food, activities and discussions. I’ll be running a letter writing taster workshop as part of the day. Again, you can book tickets through Foyles. Hope to see you there!

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