Writers Forum Workshop is meeting online via Zoom for the duration of the UK’s present COVID-19 (Coronavirus) emergency. In-person meetings will recommence once it is judged safe to gather in physical spaces again. Please see the Forthcoming workshops page for updates on this, and for details of online meetings.
Writers Forum Workshop usually takes place on the second Saturday of each month, beginning at 3.30pm and finishing for 5.30pm (NB: the September 2021 workshop will be an exception – see the Forthcoming workshops page for details). Focusing on experimental poetry, we offer a supportive, non-judgmental atmosphere for poets to share new work that pushes the boundaries of their art. Attendance is free and open to anyone with an interest in writing or hearing such work. There’s no need for advance booking – just show up at the meeting with your work.
What happens at the workshop?
Poets take turns to perform or present recent work to the group. The meetings are lightly chaired, with participants reading as and when they feel ready. In contrast to many creative writing workshops, there is no exchange of critical feedback after each piece, as this could discourage innovative practice. The workshop is nevertheless a good learning experience, giving authors a chance to discover how their work sounds and feels when performed to a group. The atmosphere is very much that of a co-operative poetry reading where everyone has a chance to contribute. After everyone who wants to read has had a turn, if there is enough time, those with extra material are given an opportunity to read again. Guest readers are sometimes invited in advance to give extended presentations as the finale to a workshop. Once the workshop has finished, there is usually an opportunity to chat.
What sort of work should I bring?
The emphasis is on the experimental end of the poetry spectrum, but this encompasses a wide range of practices, including but not limited to visual poetry, sound poetry, conceptual writing and linguistically innovative work. There is also an interest in crossovers between poetry and other forms such as performance art, visual art, music, fiction and the essay. Translations of innovative poetry, innovative translations of traditional poetry, and writing in non-English languages are all welcome. See the excellent introduction at www.modernpoetry.org.uk for more background on experimental poetry. If you are unsure whether your writing will fit in, a sensible assumption is that the answer will be yes – the wider the variety of styles encompassed by the workshop, the better! In terms of length, 5 minutes’ performance time is a good guideline for an upper limit, but there is plenty of room for exceptions to this, and (as mentioned above) there is often an opportunity for participants to enjoy a second slot.
What are the origins of this workshop series?
Writers Forum Workshop works in the tradition of the Writers Forum workshops that were founded in the 1950s by the concrete poet Bob Cobbing and were run by him for several decades. Many regulars at the present workshops had the privilege of taking part in Cobbing’s events. Writers Forum is run along co-operative lines, based on the philosophy that the participants are the workshop. Organisational decisions (when needed) are made during the discussions that follow each workshop, with everyone present being welcome to have a say, and any tasks are allocated on a voluntary basis.
Do I need to provide copies of my work for others to see?
The emphasis on performance usually makes this unnecessary, though if your work has a strongly visual character, it is possible to use screen-sharing on our present online platform to show it to the group. If you would like to do this, please ask the chair of the meeting.
Do I have to perform?
No, you’re welcome simply to attend and listen to the other participants. However, please do consider reading. If you don’t have any new work that you’d like to share, you can bring an older piece, or something by another writer whom you feel deserves attention. Also, contributors sometimes bring work that requires more than one voice to perform – please feel free to join in and assist them.