Our Future Selves: explorations in poetry

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Our Future Selves brought together Daisy (Disability Arts in Surrey) and DAO (Disability Arts Online) with Surrey Libraries to deliver a series of spoken word events and workshops in libraries across Surrey in Autumn 2017. Tegan Fuller responded to the event in Guildford Library on Thursday 2nd November marking the fourth of five spoken word events.

Photo of a brightly coloured knitted patchwork book with the title Our Future Selves by The Grange embroidered onto it.

Our Future Selves knitted book made by residents at the Grange

The intention behind Our Future Selves is to inspire minds and explore our potentials through the frameworks of community and poetry. To write, unravel, use and speak it. Poetry can sharpen and re-frame our experience of right now. It allows us to reconstruct and question the present, but also envision a future.

Isn’t it a bit outrageous? To look boldly on at the future – hopefully – optimistically – in a world saturated in conflict, terror and bad news? But poetry sees every angle. And there is still a lot of joy to look out for. That’s what I found when I walked into the poetry workshop at Guildford library, on a crisp, clear Thursday morning. I was greeted warmly by the group of writers and readers around the table, and got to experimenting with the language on the papers in front of us.

Participating in the workshop were a brilliant set of individuals from The Grange, a centre that supports those with learning difficulties, and encourages them in their visions for their futures. Over hot drinks and pastries, we all unpicked words, funny-sounding rhymes and phrases from past writers – then individually chopped them up, mixed and matched them in new assortments. The results were contrasting, fun and very amusing to say the least.

Photo of Asian writer Lynne E. Blackwood at a microphone, standing in front of library book shelves

Lynne E. Blackwood reading at Our Future Selves

For one of the activities, (my personal favourite), our own words this time became the puzzle pieces. We wrote along a particular theme – like simply waking up in the morning – then selected words and phrases meaningful to us and rewrote these on post-it notes.

We next randomized and jumbled them all together. We rotated and kept choosing different orders for them to take. The resulting compositions brought surprising new meanings to every phrase – with particular thanks to those who did some animated and heartfelt reading out! We had some fantastic poetry come to life.

The afternoon included spoken word performances from Lynne E Blackwood, who read some poetry for us and also from her prose work Cows and Lambs, which can be found in Dahlia Books anthology Dividing Lines. We also got to hear poetry from John O’Donoghue and DAO’s own Colin Hambrook, who each dealt with themes like love, marginalisation, disability, mental illness and with humour, interrogated the present and future.

What struck me were not only the great people and the laughs that had been had, but also the atmosphere. There was a distinct feeling of walking into a place where community meets creativity, and everyone finds out something interesting about themselves and the person next to them.

Our future Selves: the theme is positive. The poetry asking us personal questions – what our lives look like to us, what they should and could look like. The day ended with the reading of Sri Chinmoy’s poem ‘The Future’ beginning: “Let us not worry about the future. Let us only do the right thing today.” This significantly reminded me of a few lines of even older poetry: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 Holy Bible, New International Version, © Biblica, Inc.®).

To quote appropriately in response to that, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (J.R.R. Tolkien The Fellowship of the Ring. London: HarperCollins, 2011). Let’s hope there will be more of these great events to come.