I recently got back from a poetry/writing workshop, as you might have gathered from my senseless tweeting about rhythm exercises and such. Madrid is a city I love, for its freedom, friendly population, language that flows and rolls right off the tip of my tongue, for its big park and the Fallen Angel statue, for the Prado and the Velasquez Christ. For all the places from books, tangible squares and famous museums.
I’m not a poet, and I am little of a writer.
Fundamentals of Poetry was a way to get back into writing, to meet new people and gather energy; a way to learn more about acoustics, about finding your own voice (not in a metaphorical way, but in a physical, “how do I read out loud without cringing when being recorded” kind of way), and trying out different exercises. The workshop, with participants from Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Italy, and Spain, was led by Jörg Piringer, who is among other things a member of the well-known Gemüseorchester (Vegetable Orchestra). The main things we looked at were rhythm and sound to enhance the poetic language, through the following techniques (to be done in groups, preferably with students from each country).
Phase 1: Surface Translation
To listen to a few lines from a poem in a language other than your native one and to translate the sounds you hear into words found in your native language.
Though this was my favorite exercise, it was also the most difficult. Out of the 5 other languages being spoken I am fluent in two of them (as well as German and English) so I had to use a lot of willpower to turn words which made total sense to me and had a meaning into simple sounds, to then be ‘translated’ into English. This made me think about the little amount of vocabulary I use in English and about the beauty of sounds in languages one doesn’t understand and/or is not accustomed to, such as Czech and Finnish.
Phase 2: Construction / Deconstruction
Manipulating a sentence in any way possible (removing/adding/switching letters, working with syllables with a strict process or at random)
Compared to the previous exercise, this one felt much easier, maybe because there was less time pressure (we decided to all use the same sentence taken from a book title, to work separately and compare results) but possibly also because there was a huge margin in terms of experimentation; one could do whatever one wanted, hopefully ending up with satisfying results. Strangely enough, everyone worked in completely different ways, resulting in ‘pieces’ that spanned across the sung lullaby, sarcastic sexual innuendo title, poetic sentence, and rhythmic play.
Phase 3: Simultaneous Poem
Writing and rehearsing a score for a poem with multiple voices and representing it graphically.
This was the most fun exercise; it took place on the last day of the workshop and though we were all exhausted we also knew that the end was near and that soon enough all would be going back to their respective countries. We put a lot of energy into creating a fun piece based around a famous canon, working with voices and pitches, using our last names as lyrics and found objects to keep the beat.