Archive for digital poem

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


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:

Text, text, text

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 7, 2010 by noelwilliams

I spent most of my day kicking computers and then struggling with words. As it’s an exhibition of poetry, words are moderately important. The central, entrance, space will have five texts in it, sort of poems, sort of descriptions, sort of instructions. Getting these right is quite important. Then there’s labels for exhibits (the Poetry Lounge will have a menu of activities, for example).

Then there’s the digital poems, which are dependent on the underlying women and war poems I’ve written, so could only be worked on properly once the original poems were completed (and handed over for Katherine’s Garden of Stones). But I needed to be sure I had enough computers for what I had in mind and, guess what?

Fortunately, I’ve been given two old computers, so these would do the job, providing they could run the software but: guess what?

So, when my son Taran thought I’d struggled long enough with software I didn’t understand, he fixed the problem, Essentially, he simply has to click his fingers and most computers jump to his bidding. Which meant I later had a happy evening implementing the poems that had been rattling around in my head and my notes. And, of course, discovering that they didn’t quite work as I’d hoped. But that seems they way these things always go.

A trip to Bank Street to show my dear friend, Steven, the exhibition in the making (he can’t make the Private View) had three tasks:

(1) get the brochure to the printer. I did, at 2.00. They shut at 12.00 on Saturdays.

(2) check the re-implemented DVDs on the players and demo to my friend, Steven. The room was locked, and me without a key…..

(3) Check out the computer that had kindly been donated. Yes, computer. Yes, monitor. Yes, monitor cable. Yes, power cable for monitor. And power cable for computer? Er – power cable for computer? Guess what?

Even so, Steven was mightily impressed with his preview of the preview of the Garden of Stones.

So, with less than two days to go, and the digital poems not implemented, and the office not in place, and only two of the four DVDs burned, with none tested, and no labels printed, and the brochure not even at the printers: guess what?

Writing on slates

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 3, 2010 by noelwilliams

Slate is now scattered for Garden of Stones, and Katherine has been transferring my poems to them, a word at a time. The result is beginning to look quite beautiful.

I’ve been offered another monitor and another computer, so it looks as if all three digital poems will be on display, assuming the hardware will do the job it needs to.

The Poetry Lounge is almost painted. Ben and his dad have been working away at it, so it’s beginning to look relaxed and relaxing, although until the furniture is in place, we won’t know the overall impact. Here I’m hoping for a relaxing, nostalgic space, which will induce people to pause, reflect, perhaps read, perhaps write.

Meanwhile I’m working on the poems for the main room, the White Space between all the other exhibits, as well as the graphics to accompany the revised audio channels. Michael has finished the third of these, so one channel remains.