Archive for Bank Street Arts

What next?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2010 by noelwilliams

Can’t really answer that question, just yet.

We took down the exhibition today. It was a lot quicker than setting it up.

And now Bank Street is festooned with the beginnings of a new set of exhibitions, part of the “Over to You” mini-festival of art. I walked around the exhibitions-in-the-making tonight, before a reading (by Simon Armitage, Sally Baker, Liz Cashdan, Jenny King and Beverley Nadin, who were all excellent, but I think the stars were probably Simon and Bev. Simon was launching his new pamphlet “The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in its Own Right”, published by Smith/Doorstop, which is the Poetry Business’s publishing arm; and Bev was accepted her righteous and rightful prize as TPB Sheffield Poet prize – she is pretty clearly going to go places, I think).

Anyway, some interesting exhibitions in the offing – but none of them mine. I suddenly plunged into depression that the place which had been pretty much my life for a month – certainly occupied most of my waking thoughts and much of my time – suddenly wasn’t my place any more. “My” spaces were occupied by alien objects. This is not something I’ve experienced before. I guess the closest feeling is when you visit a house you used to live in: an odd combination of the entirely familiar and the completely changed.

In fact, my Residency continues, which is good news. But, of course, all its immediate energy is Prospero’d into thin air, and I’ve no clear project to be working on any more.

I do have, of course, dozens of ideas which spin out of the work so far, but none are in place, and perhaps I need a rest from all this for a while. And it isn’t quite over, in any case, as I still have to produce an evaluation for ACE and deliver another 100 CDs.

I’m thinking possible ideas might be:

– to run a (monthly?) drop-in “poetry clinic”, where anyone can appear, do some writing, and ask everyone else, including the poet in residence, who might vary from month to month, for help and advice on current problems

– a network to better connect all the different poets and groups and activities which go on in the region (South Yorkshire – not merely Sheffield). Matt Black’s “Signposts” does a lot of this, but he thinks there are groups that aren’t missed and maybe a new improved e-zine might hit the spot

– personally, I would like to see more readings at Bank St. But who will organise them?

– I’d also like to read more myself, but I’m not sure what opportunities I might find now.

– I want a new audio project. “Speakers” was exciting, challenging and, I think, a pretty good piece of work in the end. I now want to do something better – perhaps something a little more musical.

– I want to take the exhibition on the road, but I’ve no experience at all in tracking down galleries or festivals and convincing them how wonderful I am

– I’d like to find a project which involved collaboration with a visual artist. In fact, by accident, there may be one with Jen, Gallery Assistant at Bank St – but what I would really like to do is to contribute to some public art, a verbal installation of some kind

– the digital poems are interesting but not as effective as they could be, partly because of the unusual relationship between reading and attention which they create. I want to find a way to use this and produce more fluid digital works.

– above all, I need to finish the Women and Warfare collection and see if anyone wants to publish it, as that was the personal driver for the whole thing

It’s over

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2010 by noelwilliams

Well, it’s March 6th, so “Exploding Poetry” is no more. We’ll be taking it all down on Monday. No more Garden of Stones. No more Speakers. No more Poetry Lounge. The White Space will be filled and the poet no longer have any office.

The last day has been quite fun, a good emblem of the exhibition as a whole: some visits by people I knew, some by people I’d never met before’ a couple of hesitant contributions for the whole, some strong adjectives in praise of the event; people wanting something like it to continue; some bursting balloons; some new poems in the stones; a long conversation about the nature of poetry, the nervousness of poets, the terrors of performance, the need to be honest and authentic.

But the best parts of the day were visits by two young ladies, Leah, who is 7 and Mila who was probably a little younger, just learning to write properly. Both of them did beautiful jobs. Mila gave me a poem with a drawing, the only visitor in the entire exhibition to do so. Leah made a poem in stones, a poem from the words of burst balloons, and a poem from the dice that went on the walls. For someone of her age, the brilliance of her work and the enthusiasm she showed for the task, would be a good model for many a grown-up writer.

It was wonderful to see the work of those two poets. Although I’ve been overwhelmed by success of the exhibition: we’ve had well over 420 visitors, some have returned, many have made a point of giving excellent and flattering feedback, something like 60 to 80 poems have been contributed for it or during it, both the readings I organised were really successful: big, attentive, rewarding and rewarded audiences.

I may never get the chance for anything like this again. Who knows? It has been an incredible month, and a pretty astounding year that’s led up to it. I am very lucky to have had the chance, very pleased at the success, amazed by the opportunities and learning it has given me, and think both my work and my understanding is so much better as a result.

Of course, I still don’t have the published collection which was the aim right at the beginning, but I do  have seventy poems I didn’t have before, and a couple of them have found publication or a prize, so I can’t really complain, can I?

I hope to keep working at Bank Street, perhaps supporting other poets and writers, and perhaps collaborating with other artists there, which I’ve now got a taste for. So perhaps I’ll see you there.

George Szirtes reading

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2010 by noelwilliams

Strictly speaking, this event wasn’t part of my exhibition, as it was organised by The Poetry Business and Sheffield University. But it was held at Bank Street, in the heart of the exhibition, which we ran on until the reading began, and so most of the audience had the chance to wander round and comment on what they found.

The readings themselves were good – a huge range of different material, though. George Szirtes himself offered several different kinds of text, almost all of which were driven by some appealing formal or structural consideration (such as responding to a blacked-out postcard, or interpreting a partly obscured text) as well as being interesting as poems in their own right.

I really like Ann Atkinson’s work: her first pamphlet, “Drawing Water” (itself a lovely ambiguity) is a delicate collection, very nicely judged, with generally quite simple language yet each word very carefully placed: they remind me a little of lace or embroidery in their working, but that is to suggest a rather out of touch or hobbyist poetry which Ann’s poems most certainly are not. The resonance in her work often comes after the reading, as it were, often sharp and contemporary, or revealingly personal, when the import works through. And her phrasing can be exquisite. She also has a knack for choosing unusual subjects where you think: “why on earth has no-one every written about that before?”

Recommended reading, I’d say.

[George Szirtes and Ann Atkinson in heated debate]

The other two poets were new to me. At least, I had heard Nathan Hamilton once before, in an open mike session, but am not familiar with his work generally. And Agnes Lehockzy was unknown to me. Both are worth watching for.

Nathan’s highlight was probably the reading of most of his pieces from an Ipad – in discussion later he said he used it almost exclusively for composition now, as it was so convenient (but obviously not that convenient for getting the work onto paper – this would permanently worry me if the only version of my work was in e-form). His “Malcolm” poems are disturbing, quirky, amusing and sharp by turn.

[The four poets, discussing either e-books, Eliot or pizza, I’m not sure which. You can just see my poem on the wall above George Szirtes’s head. Possibly the closest I’ll come to sharing the stage with such a poet.]

Agnes (Aggie) on the other hand, offered us long, descriptive semi-narrative pieces, quite unusual to hear in a reading which, though perhaps a little difficult to keep focused on, were full of observed detail which she then suddenly or subtly takes in odd directions.

The evening ended with a discussion of poetry, publication and, in its most lively moments, the place of electronic media and its impact on the poetry industry. George said he had absolutely no fears for poetry, as it would last whilst humanity did, as a fundamental need. This prompted huge murmurs of assent from the audience, which is about the closest poets ever get to a rousing cheer.

[I think inspiration is just off-camera]

Ann suggested, she thought subversively (but actually not) that poetry was not about publication, but about satisfying one’s own needs in practising a difficult art; and that books would not disappear, because of their satisfaction as objects.

She’s absolutely right on both counts. All this blogging is a great way to get information out, and maybe to get known. However, we could live without computers. How could we live without books?

[Apologies for the photo quality – taken in low light on my Nokia]

Fifty visitors in a day!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2010 by noelwilliams

I only spent the first hour of Saturday at Bank Street, showing my best and one of my oldest – er – most long-standing – friends around the exhibition. He really got into the swing of things and left a poem for the wall, as well as a mischievous piece in the visitor’s book.

Then we left for York, my prize, my reading and, it turned out, a dislocated finger.

But in my absence it seems the exhibition was inundated with visitors. Over 50, I was told, and mainly in family groups. And groups who left traces of themselves, too: poems in stones, on walls, in books, on the whiteboard. As much interaction and use of the materials as in the first, private view.

Clearly some message had gone out somewhere, but I’ve no idea what went where. My best guess is that a message to the education department of the local authority had reached schools, and from there, kids and parents. But who knows?

If you do (perhaps you visited on Saturday) I’d really like to know what drew in all these visitors.

Not so many today, though.

However, Michael and I came along, and left behind us 40 copies of the CD, hot off the presses, ready to leap into people’s pockets at a mere £5 a time. It does look, and sound, good – but there’s no telling if any will sell.

And, whilst I’m here, let me just remind you that the Tuesday Poets are reading as the finale of the exhibition at Bank St on Friday, 5th March, 6.15-8.00. There’s a bar (wine, £1) and free cake, as well as tea, coffee etc.

CD Update

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 1, 2010 by noelwilliams

I’ve added a major update on the CD, which is now almost ready (availble from tomorrow) at £5.00 (plus P&P).

Also, I’m adding a new page on the logistics of the audio project.

More on the CD

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 23, 2010 by noelwilliams

The CD is now ready to press. I’ve updated the news on the CD page.

Unfortunately, didn’t get to Bank Street today because of illness, but a few people have emailed to say they dropped in recently, and how much they enjoyed it, which I very much appreciate. Most of my energy now needs to ensure that the CD is properly sorted, and that the reading by the Tuesday Poets next week is as successful as the MA reading last week.

Some new pix

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on February 20, 2010 by noelwilliams

I’ve just added some photos from today’s version of the exhibition. It changes daily. Today I’ve added a couple of poems by Yasamin Motamedi, and seen several new poems in the Garden of Stones. The balloons have been revitalised with some new texts, ready for the next heavy footed interactive poets.

MA Writers’ Reading

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 17, 2010 by noelwilliams

I’ve just come from a really excellent set of readings from my fellow MA writing students at Hallam Uni. This is the first time that students on the MA have had chance, as a cohort, to read to each other, and it was great. Everyone was disciplined, organised, and, most importantly, had chosen some excellent pieces to read. I guess it would be unfair for me to say whose work I enjoyed most, as everyone brought something entertaining, moving, provoking, amusing or beautiful to the table. A few that stick in my memory, though, are Jamie’s Cockscomb, Suzannah’s “Leeds International Swimming Pool,” Tricia’s neat little story of observational wistfulness, with its striking image of the man hauling a swan into the Dee, Joan’s clever found poem, the wonderfully melodic and expressive “River” of Fay and the musical lines of Angelina and of Ruby. However, there wasn’t a piece I didn’t enjoy, which is a rare thing to say for any reading.

Now I have to make sure the Tuesday Poet’s reading on March 5th is as good an event.

Readings by Writers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2010 by noelwilliams

Following the launch of Alan Halsey’s exhibition at Bank Street last Friday, the next event is this Wednesday.

Come along at 6.15 to hear 20 writers from Sheffield Hallam University’s MA Writing offer small samples of their new works and works in progress, both poems and stories. In many cases these will be works that have never been heard before, given their first airing.

The MA Writing at Sheffield is taught by many prestigious writers, including Jane Rogers, Leslie Glaister, Maurice Riordan, local poet Chris Jones, Harriet Tarlo, John Turner, Mike Harris and John Milne. Visiting professors include Sean O’Brien and Hilary Mantel. Previous students have included Frances Leviston, Anne Chivers and Marina Lewycka.

This is a rare chance to experience some new, quality writing, mainly from local writers.

And it’s free!


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on February 8, 2010 by noelwilliams

Well, as just about everything that might’ve gone wrong has gone wrong in the run up to this exhibition, I wouldn’t have been too suprised – disappointed, but not surprised – for this evening’s private view to be a complete disaster. In fact, it wasn’t even a partial disaster.

But we came very close. For a start, only about half the pieces I’d planned on were actually ready. Then all three of the computers (I’d managed to get three eventually, though one was my laptop which may have developed irritable vowel syndrome and has to have a nap every forty three minutes) – decided to do interesting things. Or rather, uninteresting things that required a computer expert to sort.

There were also supposed to be balloons, filled with poems (words from poems). At 10 to 6, we had about three. Then one burst.

At least we knew that the idea worked: bits of poem dramatically everywhere. Luckily my son Owen and his friend Marion arrived, and with enthusiastic Ellen, a very helpful volunteer who had been sticking poetic fragments to walls all day, they set about a production line under the control (more or less ) of Carrol, my wife. Soon we had balloons exploding all over the place.

At five to six, we had none of the texts on the walls, either. These were pretty critical as (a) they summarised the exhibition, (b) they directed people to particular elements of it, especially what they might get out of the different rooms and (c) they were about the only straight poems, by me, in the exhibition. It was then that John discovered he couldn’t cut the foam board without spreading ink on the texts from the steel rule. And we only had a single copy of each text.

Hey ho!

So, five minutes into the Private View, then ten minutes, I was still hanging texts. People were beginning to arrive, milling around, asking me questions.

But the office wasn’t ready. Marion hastily rewrote the interactive poem on the whiteboard. I hastily posted the few “poems as office objects” that I’d created. I hastily scattered balloons around the white space of the main hall (which looked absolutely beautiful, by the way, in its meancholy drapes of quiet white).

Then there were people milling everywhere. Drifting in and out.

“Is it okay to walk on the stones?”

“Yes, it’s what we want, you’re to change the exhibit as you walk within it.”

“The audio is great, but I’d like to sit and listen. I need time, just to listen to it. I’ll have to come back again.”

Some people came and read the poems on the walls, sat in the lounge, read books, chatted. Some wrote a little in the visitors’ book, or played with the poetry dice, made lines of verse. (We need more).

Some, it seems, walked off with the odd stone. But Katherine is alright with that: it’s an interaction. The point is interaction. We want people to make their own sense from the exhibit.

“When will you be making the DVD? We’d like to listen to the whole thing.”

Bang! Balloons – in fact, poetry – exploding at random moments. Another point – these were events of random moment. Some people got some of it, some made connections, some were a little mystified – I guess the computers were the big mystery “What’s going on there?” – some fascinated, some saw the overall ideas (make your own connections, play with words, use random tools to make personal meanings, find the links, think about women and war) – some were moved, just a little, by the war poems, the gradual accumulation of sounds and memories.

Apparently one visitor said it was the best exhibition they’d seen at Bank St. That is amazing, if really the case. This is the first time in my life I’ve done anything like this; and is a pretty unusual opportunity for a poet, too, to have a gallery of rooms built up around his work.

And not to have the work (well most of it) directly there, either. If there’s one thing you’d expect to see in a poet’s exhibition, it’s surely the poems he (or she) has written. Well, there are some here by mw: I haven’t gone so far as to eliminate myself entirely from my own exhibition. But only eleven are easily discoverable: the five created for the White Space, and six in the leaflet (you can take it away, it’s free. Free poetry!) The rest are deep in computers or scattered amongst seven thousand slates or slashed on TV monitors, or spoken fleetingly. Or hidden, in artefacts in the office, or the toys in the Lounge. You can find my connections, or make your own.

I think the audio-visual installation went down well. There were too many people much of the time for it to be best appreciated, I guess, so I hope and expect people will return to listen again, and for longer.

But undoubtedly the hit of the exhibit was the Garden of Stones. Katherine has produced something wonderful there. People came back to it again and again. How often does an art exhibit do that? My youngest visitor, Dominic, who is (I think) not yet two (I hope I’m right, Lisa) was fascinated by it. People made little cairns, arranged the stones into poems, found words or stones they liked and put them aside, or on the windowsill, perhaps arranged in lines.


You must come and see it, if only for Katherine’s Garden of Stones. It is spot on for my intent in these works, and it uses my 70 poems, but it’s beauty and richness is entirely hers.

Unfortunately, the best photo I have is still mediocre, but I’ll post better ones when I have them: