Writers Forum Workshop – New Series usually takes place on the second Saturday of each month at The Barley Mow pub, 127 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3BX (nearest stations: Old Street and Shoreditch High Street). Participants gather in the bar from 4pm then head to an upstairs rooms for the workshop, finishing for 6pm.
Focusing on experimental poetry, the workshop offers a supportive, non-judgemental 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 Barley Mow 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, participants reconvene in the bar of the pub for informal discussions.
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 about 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 – New Series continues from 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 New Series had the privilege of taking part in Cobbing’s events. New Series 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 bring copies of my work for others to see?
The emphasis on performance usually makes this unnecessary, though you may wish to make an exception for pieces that are strongly visual in character.
What if my performance requires special equipment?
Unfortunately our venue does not have its own audio-visual equipment, but you are welcome to bring any portable technology that you require.
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.