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14 July 2023

Posted by Antosh Wojcik & Claire Hillier


The Wessex Team journeys to Manchester Poetry Library for Apples and Snakes WORDCUP23. The team embark on a weekend of workshops, rehearsal and exploration in preparation for the WORDCUP Celebration showcase where they will perform their group poems alongside teams from Devon, Suffolk, Leeds, Coventry & Manchester. 

The Friday evening hosts a Managers Match in which Poet Coaches and Assistants share their work for the national teams to hear. Hosted by the one-man beacon of community poetry Jacob Sam-La Rose, Antosh and Claire share their work alongside Yomi Sode, Khadijah Ibrahim, Muneera Pilgrim, John Bernard & Reece Williams and their assistants. It's an awe-inspiring array of poetic styles that charge the space - topped by a radical performance by Shirley May, which really blew open the young writers ideas of what performance poetry can be.

After a rest, Saturday soon swings into action with performance-focused workshops led by Yomi, Khadijah and Muneera. These workshops really level up the Hounsdown poets and we feel their energies rise and rise as we enter a pre-show rehearsal. The confidence level of these young writers has rocketed throughout the process - they make last minute changes and embrace brutal edits, bring in stagecraft and audience participation aspects to the poems, in response to what they had seen on Friday night / engaged with in their daytime sessions.

Soon enough, it's showcase time. The Wessex Team, Hounsdown Poets contribute their work to the space. 'The Last Tree' wakes charged silences in the audience as they describe the devastating last moments of the final tree standing. The group bring the audience into participation with choral chants of 'We Cannot Surrender' as they raise their arms as branches. There is such a weight to the poem, yet light is inspired in our collective celebration. Our 2nd team poem, 'Somewhere Between a Meal Deal & Death' goes down an absolute storm, as the 4 young writers meditate on the existential crises that wake in the moments of exam pressure. Claire and I are blown away by the performance level the Hounsdown team bring to the space - they give the best performances of their work to date in that moment.

The event is charged with incredible work from all teams, which connect to the theme of Bearing Witness, but also speak to the notions of home, identity and the climate. Jacob Sam-La Rose expertly steers the poetic ships through and headliners Joelle Taylor and Danez Smith contribute their powerhouse work to the space - just to elevate us all into poetic heaven!

You can watch these poems live here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPEf1OhbZPU

Sunday is reflection day. We receive incredibly warm and encouraging feedback from Danez, Joelle and Shirley, the showcase celebrants. They commend both groups on their performance skills, their writing ability and the 'cinema' of their poetry. We coast home, all the way from Manchester to Southampton, on these good feelings.

Thank you to Mrs Nobes, Ms Thornley for bringing such a beautiful team of poets onto this journey. Antosh and Claire have had the best time unlocking poetry and embracing the fun of writing group work together.

Thank you to Matt West of ArtfulScribe for the opportunity to coach on this project, it has been a joyous and supported experience.

And thank you to Lisa Mead and the Apples and Snakes Team and Jacob Sam-La Rose for making this work happen.

Poetry is alive and well.


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