Exactly 12 months ago, I was given a chance to attend a masterclass at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh.
Performance poet Francesca Beard led the weekend class, with the aim of helping the participants form a full-length spoken-word show. Like many performers, she believes revealing part of your inner self on stage – or indeed on a page – makes for compelling work.
One year on, I’ve completed a few projects as a result of that fabulous weekend:
The Purple Spotlights EP
Before I had enough material for a full-length show, I did have enough poetry for a four-track EP.
I chose three existing pieces around the theme of friendship. Additionally, I wrote Seven Months especially for the release, which takes more than five minutes to perform. In print, that would be too long for most magazines, but ideal for audio.
The recording process taught me a little about performance and a lot about packaging my work for an audience who aren’t in front of me.
The EP was released in April 2016 and is available on Amazon, iTunes and Spotify, plus many other outlets.
Crossing the Road
On the second day of the masterclass, Beard asked us to identify the subject or theme we were scared to write about. Then she asked us to write about it, and I did. We all did.
This gave me the confidence to interest the publisher in a previously-written work called Crossing the Road that deals directly with my bisexuality. It was then included in the Aiblins: New Scottish Political Poetry anthology; the first publication I approached. I was pleased to be invited back to Edinburgh, then to Aberdeen, for the launches.
I felt this poem would have more impact if it weren’t read from a sheet of paper, so I committed it to memory. From that point on, I’ve tried to do the same with all my performed work.
Over the weekend, I became acquainted with the other participants, and I remain friends with most of them. One introduced me to the intense and angry work of Andrea Gibson and, by coincidence, I happened upon the Kate Tempest poem The Woman the Boy Became.
These influences helped me to shape an idea I’d had for years, but hadn’t been able to commit to paper. Sir Madam is a character who identifies as somewhere between male and female. Owing to the subject matter, I was particularly nervous about performing it. However, I received several positive comments afterwards, some from quarters I hadn’t expected.
Jennifer Goldman’s Electric Scream
The main aim of the workshop was to form a full-length spoken-word show. I’ve used some of the techniques taught to write a series of monologues that I’m seeking to turn into a one-hour play.
That isn’t finished yet, but it might not exist at all if it hadn’t been for that weekend with Francesca Beard.