Archive for garden of stones

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.

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.

More and more poems

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 18, 2010 by noelwilliams

The exhibition had some great visitors today. Between them a new poem was posted to the wall, several little poems appeared amongst the Garden of Stones, the interactive poem developed, and several little poems were created amongst the magnetic poems and toys.

Meanwhile, we’ve been displaying poem after poem. There are forty from contributing poets and more to come, and a wall-full of both well known and less familiar poems from the great poets, past and present. So much to read. So little time.

Also, Alison Fawcett, my friend and an ace photgapher, has just given me some superb shots from the Private View. I’ve created a page to display some of the most interesting.

So it goes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2010 by noelwilliams

The exhibition has settled now into a gentle rhythm. Occasional visitors pass through. Some creep in and creep out, saying little, not doing much. Some are entranced by the poems in the audio room, and spent long periods moving stones around in the garden, or simply sit in the Lounge with a cup of tea and a poetry book.

Here’s me and Cora looking at stones:

And here’s what one visitor did with some of them:

Some great little things have happened, too. Young Dominic (15 months old, I overestimated him before) returned, making straight for the stones, although he quite enjoyed ploughing his pushchair through the balloons, too.

Last time I arrived, I found a paper airplane inscribed “poems can fly”, although this sentiment was clearly too weighty for this particular construct, as it mainly preferred to fall.

And in the middle of the Garden of Stones, a folded paper fan, inscribed “Now I’m a fan”. So, that’s one, at least.

Quite fun. That’s one of the great things about this exhibition. I can’t anticipate what we’re going to get.

Someone has also used the Visitors’ Book to write poems. That’s fantastic, but means no-one will now write in the book, as they’ll think they’re expected to coin original sentiments. So we’ll need a new one. Maybe one for poems and one for comments??

We’ve begun the rehang of the poems in the Lounge, because the overall display was hard to read, and not really inspiring people to write. What I really would like to see is every visitor inspired by what they’ve seen to offer their own contribution, there and then. A few have, and these are now on the chimney breast. We’re also going to take some pages from poetry books and magazines and display these, too, so that the impact is “poetry, poetry, everywhere.”

Meanwhile, fixed the recalcitrant monitor, so all three computers are running as planned.

And work begins on the DVD. Two thirds of the writers and half the readers have given permission to use their work, and only one person decided against it. So planning has started and, with luck, it’ll be out there before the exhibition closes.

A couple of people also suggested that we should publish the poems. I wanted a catalogue of some kind, but don’t want to self-publish my work, and couldn’t really catalogue the work till it was in place. If we produced such a thing, it would probably contain some pieces from the audio work, some from the contributions, and a few of my own, plus images from the various exhibits.

I’d be interested to know what people think: is there enough mileage in this work to document it in a brief (say 32 page) collection/catalogue?

Meanwhile (shameless plug) if you want to read a couple of pieces by me, surrounded by some excellent new writing, you could do worse than Matter, the literary magazine of the MA Writing at Sheffield Hallam. You can check it out in the Lounge and, if you want a copy, contact me, or see:

[Photos taken by Mary Musselwhite]


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:

Sudden beautiful progress

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

I only arrived at Bank St late today. The gallery is transformed. Katherine’s central space is now strung with her bunting, which looks beautiful. The shadows cast are gentle and melancholic. It’s strange to see my words incorporated in someone else’s work, and I can’t stop smiling each time I think of it.

The room awaits my missing texts. Hopefully I’ll be confident enough in them to release them tomorrow. I have produced a small brochure to accompany the private view on Monday, though. Sneak preview here:

Her Garden of Stones is also almost in place, too. About two thirds of my seventy poems are now inscribed, word by word, on stones laid across the floor of one of the galleries. The grey of slate and the silver sheen of the words upon them is a softly dazzling sight in itself, but when you walk amongst them, which you must (especially to inspect the delicacy of her other work in the room) you necessarily disturb the words, and create new paths and connections. It’s like being on a beach, where every other pebble reveals something to you, a word that links with the word next to it, or a puzzle about how such a word might be used in a poem, or a reminder of words you saw elsewhere in the gallery, a visible echo.

And, again, these are my words but not my words. It’s a strange feeling.

It probably won’t matter if the other exhibits fall short, because these pieces are justification enough of the event, I think, and worth your visit if you go for no other reason.  

However, the rest of the work is looking good, too. The Poetry Lounge is already very lounge-like. No poems up as yet, though more have arrived today (we need more, by the way. Inundate us). But the furniture and layout makes it a gentle, somewhat nostalgic room, the sort where you want to spend an idle twenty or thirty minutes outside your hectic day, picking up the odd poetry book, scanning the writings of others on the walls, or, perhaps, as I dearly hope, penning a few words yourself which we can add to the exhibit.

Meanwhile Michael has finished all four of the audio tracks, and it’s up to me to spend the weekend editing the video to them in the best possible way. Which is no mean feat as, by my calculation, a total of at least 480 separate images is needed.

And, finally, there’s the ghost office, the engine room which is intended as the hub of all the ideas, my home when I’m there, as poet in motion, and a space in which half-formed ideas and almost-poems are floating just waiting for visitors to see them and pull them out of the air. At the moment, this entirely consists of two computer monitors. No computers, no desks, no furniture, no exhibits. Just two monitors.

Well, you can’t have everything.

The aim is to have three digital poems writing themselves so that work is taking place with the office creating poetry even when I’m not there. At the moment, though, I’ve only one computer which happily runs the software, so things are looking a little worrying on that front.

Still, three whole days to go……………..

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.