Cardiff Poetry Experiment

poetry experimentExperimentation is at the heart of all art forms, and poetry is no exception. A couple of weeks ago I attended one of the ‘Cardiff Poetry Experiment’ events, run by Cardiff University’s School of English. I was greeted at the wrought iron gates of Wyndham Arcade by the magical password ‘poetry?’ and allowed inside. The venue was Wyndham Tea Rooms (sister of Waterloo Tea Rooms), where you can get the best cuppa in Cardiff (though they were serving other drinks too).   

Kat Peddie

Kat Peddie

We heard from Kat Peddie, who read from her pamphlet of Sappho translations. Peddie’s work echoes the fragmentary nature of Sappho’s surviving lyrics, and it was interesting to hear her vocalise this through hesitation during the reading. She also read us some of her more recent work – interventions into Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus, based on the tragic love story of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Chris Paul (a writer and artist from the Rhymney Valley) then read out some of his work, much of which is shape poetry. We were able to view some of the poems on a screen whilst he read, which added another dimension to the experience. I particularly liked a poem which he described as “a psycho-geographic romp through South America”. It was shaped like South America. I also enjoyed hearing a series of mini poems which were written on the Valleys line train.

Chris Paul

Chris Paul

The final poet was Alison Gibb (from London). She combines visual art with her work, and her first, intriguing poem was read alongside a series of projected images of herself. She also read to us from a piece which was inspired by the shattering and restoration of a vase. In the book, you can see fragments of the vase alongside the verse.

We then had an opportunity for members of the audience to ask questions. The poets talked about the difficulty of performing their work, interpreting the visual elements of poems through the voice, and the use of breath to signify space. It was interesting to hear Chris Paul describe this as a real challenge – the fine balance between creating a good performance and being truthful to the work. “Sometimes poets do perform really badly” he said, perhaps because they are being “too precious” about the words themselves.

Alison Gibb performing

Alison Gibb

Alison Gibb agreed that it can be difficult with visual poetry to replicate how it looks on the page when reading it aloud, and explained that she sometimes uses another person, to provide a second voice which helps to distinguish the words.

The evening was an opportunity to encounter writers who are experimenting with their work in all sorts of ways, and to observe the fluidity of art-forms in action, as poetry merges with performance and visual art.

The Cardiff Poetry Experiment runs events every few months. You can follow them on Facebook or visit their website for more information.

(Image at the top of the page by Francesca Woodman)