Poems without words: celebrating vibrancy, scribbling & scrawling

Our Bristol Wellbeing College run informative courses and workshops for learners receiving support from Bristol Mental Health Services, and their carers. On the blog today, we go behind the scenes of a new online course combining poetry and art. 

Last month, we kick started a new series of sessions entitled ‘Making Picture Poems’, run by poet, publisher and artist Paul Hawkins, who also happens to be a Second Step service user. When Paul approached the Bristol Wellbeing College with the idea of creating a workshop in which people composed poems, we felt slightly nervous. The word ‘poetry’ can cause even the most courageous of mortals to shrink in dread as they recall phrases from school like ‘enjambment’, ‘rhyming couplets’ and ‘iambic pentameter’.

These are all fantastic words; concepts that without doubt have provided a sturdy framework for some of humanity’s most impressive forms of expression. However, they are also words that for the majority, raise a barrier. They make poetry seem like something only certain people can do in certain circles, circles we will never be a part of. Most of us have come to see poetry as a set of terms, something achieved by the highly educated. As a result, we alienate ourselves from our own potential to use it.  

As Paul reiterates in our Making Picture Poems introductory video, these sessions are about teaching that inner critic a new lesson. It is about refreshing the way we see poetry and our own ability to approach it. As he explains:

“It’s about looking at colour, vibrancy scribbling, scrawling. Trying to get away from writing poetry in a very set way [or] using certain sorts of language and topics. It’s about celebrating doing something in the moment – impromptu – without worrying about what the next word is going to be.”

Paul says that working instinctually like this has helped him more successfully “grapple with what is going on in my mind” than working with language alone.

The greatest challenge of Making Picture Poems is to unlearn and let go and experiment with the notion that really, there are no rules about the way we can express our thoughts and feelings. This can feel overwhelming too, but with a little guidance and practise, we rediscover our fluidity, our spontaneity and learn to trust our instincts – habits that are as indispensable for living as they are for poetry-making.

Have a look below at the amazing images that have been created .

To find out more about this course and other courses available from the Bristol Wellbeing College, and eligibility, visit: https://www.second-step.co.uk/wellbeing-college/ 

Birdsong, by Allison
Women Liberated, by Cheryl
By Paul
Sounds, by Paul
Women Liberated, by Allison
By Lucy
By Claudia
Sounds by Mollie
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