This year thirty poets took part in Mixed Borders part of London’s Open Garden Squares Weekend, run by the London Parks and Garden Trust with enthusiastic support from the Poetry School.
Doing a residency is a chance to write a new body of work inspired by the unique surroundings, the visitors, the history of the place as well as giving a poet a chance to find out about what it might mean to be a poet in residence.
Photos from Postman’s Park.
However there are residents’ squares, historic gardens, roof gardens, memorial gardens, veg. gardens and allotments. Friends of London’s Open Spaces are in force all weekend to make sure the whole event is a rip roaring success!
As it was the second year of the poetry scheme, poets who had a residency last year were invited to mentor a newcomer which was an interesting experience. There are guidelines but no rules for poets so one can sit on a box, chair or log and write and/or add a few optional extras to engage the public in writing a few lines.
I put garden poems old and new from all over the world around the park. There were also poems by Jo Shapcott, Carol Ann Duffy and Wordsworth. I printed them out, laminated (in case it was wet) and mounted them on sticks to make a trail around the park. Other poets had devised quizzes and poetry walks.
This year I made paper leaves to encourage people to write poems, haikus or just a line or two about the park to hang in a tree. But not everything works and it was all a bit too breezy and soggy on Saturday so I quickly changed tack to post-it notes and had two long lines at the end of the two days.
Some poets are able to get access to their space before the weekend and write poems in advance and some make things as give-aways. One poet had beautiful printed cards with a poem and an illustration, another had lovely handmade zigzag books. More than one poet made a book of their poems to give to their host site others donate a poem to be printed in the venue’s newsletter.
I made a three fold leaflet of poems with a space for people to write their own poem, these proved to be very popular. There is no budget for such things so it is up to individuals to decide how much they are prepared to spend. But none of this is expected or essential.
I put ‘I am a poet in residence please come and talk to me’ on my sun visa. I got the idea from a fellow poet on the scheme who had a tee shirt with a similar message. But people came up anyway to read some of my poems in my ‘pop up poetry flower bed’ and several wrote a few lines about what they had enjoyed in the park.
It was shere joy to discover that by the end of the weekend I had five poems, a few drafts and plenty of ideas for new poems still spinning in my head. I also have a very promising ‘community poem’ to complete.
One of the outcomes of taking park one feels more able to apply for paid residencies. I applied for one myself a couple of months ago and although not successful I was one of three poets short listed which was very cheering.
Many many thanks to all those involved.
On Monday I had been invited to read a poem at Troubadour Coffee House Poetry, along with several other poets by Anne-Marie Fyfe. This seemed like a great end to a lovely time in London.