Poem Brut: cultivating a language without words

Ahead of Bristol Wellbeing College’s Poetry Without Words live exhibition at Boston Tea Party, Stoke’s Croft, we revisit the six-week Poem Brut course and learners that created it.

Poem Brut was facilitated by poet and publisher Paul Hawkins, who designed the course as someone with lived experience of mental health issues and who is a user of mental health services.

The course is based around the Poem Brut movement and offers the chance to approach creativity without being hindered by the traditions and conventions we have come to understand as making valid art, poetry and visual poetry.

The Poem Brut course and Poetry Without Words Exhibition celebrate the intuitiveness of mark-making, scribbles, random notes, doodles and gestural scrawls; they embrace neuro-diversity, celebrate difference and the potential(s) of creative expression in its most visceral, primordial sense.

We have run the course three times since September 2020 and each time have been overwhelmed by the commitment of the learners who joined us. Their dedication to their artwork and belief in one another has built a body of artwork we are proud to exhibit. Their combined visual-poetry and artistic creative writing comes together to express what it is to be human in recent times when, simply, there are no words.

Here are some of their own thoughts on the course:

“Poem Brut takes the history and background of various art movements and encourages you to use this inspiration in a way that serves you. Through the course I have learned how to relax into art as a therapeutic activity and a means to express feelings without having to be wordy about it all the time.”


“I look at some of the work and remember the peace and lightness it has brought me. It endears me to it, quietening any internal critical narrative. It’s sparked a playful freedom in which I hope to bathe in forever, or at least this next bit of time.”


“This has been the most powerful workshop I have helped with, the inspiration that everyone has given me has provided me with voice to pursue artwork in my downtime and remove the critical voice from my head. It has allowed me to freely express myself without judgement.”

Luke – volunteer

The Second Step Poem Brut course,
at first seemed like a very dark horse.
Writing and creating to conform,
had become the usual norm,
loving poetry that that rhymes,
fitted into space and time,
got thrown aside with gay abandon,
with ideas and thoughts produced at random.
On days when I felt really low,
The course lightened me and helped me grow.


You can the works at our online Poetry Without Words exhibition here.

Visit the exhibition at Boston Tea Party, Cheltenham Road, Stoke’s Croft, Bristol, BS6 5RL from Sat 3 July – Sat 31 July. Opening times daily 8am-5pm. Bristol Wellbeing College will be next running Poem Brut in September 2020. To register your interest, please contact bristol.wellbeing.college@second-step.co.uk. You can find out more about the Poem Brut movement, led by poet, artist, illustrator and performer S.J. Fowler, at www.poembrut.comboston

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