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Blog - Richard Downes

2020 Vision


Last year I laboured long under these guide words; Troubadour, Collaborator and Workshop. These words were formed to guide development as an artist. Days before the year turned I had an e-exchange with two of my influencers. The ‘poet’ apparently could not should not identify as ‘artist’ unless a) they do something else with the word and because b) poets find it hard enough to call themselves poets without taking on the burden of another nob label.


Troubadour. My first reaction to this word today is kibosh. Kiboshed by lock down’s lock in. But this would not be true. I traveled man. Maybe not as physically as I dream’t but I traveled. All I have is words. Nouns, verbs, adjectives. They come easily to me. From my hand to the page. Splat. Rorschachs. Take that. I was a free form poet. I floated on streams of consciousness. Someone special calls me lazy. I am uninformed. I do not understand rhyme or meter/metre. A first consequence of lock down was exploration of form. I found pleasure in the cascade, heard voices in the chant, found love in the chanso and currently find myself dancing with the cinquain. All these pleasures found under ‘c’. I am nothing if not systematic. In my mind roadmaps take shape. I am traveling to spoken word events, turning up on car parks, writing a banner to tell the public a performance will start at 2pm and I am being taken in by DPPO’s across the current to perform, parlay workshops and getting paid so as to be able to drive to my next destination, festival, gig. Instead I zoom, continue a monthly group facility, find myself appearing in other people’s lives virtually, other places are visited and stored away in the mind. Speakers Corner, Kensal Green cemetery. I do not travel alone. I have a traveling companion. I have a community of poets to pick up and work with. To be less alone more with others. To be a troubadour. Maybe in 2021 I can be found playing beneath your window.

Collaborator. One thing I had already learned through working as a collaborative artist, curator and poor MC was I don’t have to do it all on my own. I write by myself. My inspiration comes from e others. I find themes to work from. I remain systematic. But what if I gave my words to others. What then? I call on my friend Charlet for illustration. Wallah! Illustrated poetry. I extend the call at an Outside In Share Art event. Another piece of work appears. I’m sure I shared the call on DAO but nothing came of that. Charlet turns anothers acrostic into a poster idea. An inadvertent trip to Magical Women results in another illustration and in some ways Magical Women had already cemented the concept. Elinor took Charlet’s illustrated poem, ‘Alive Through Time’, my audio rendition and contributed film and music. Wallah! A first poetry film. Later in the year, Mike my DASH mentor asks for a poem to read at a talk. I send him ‘The Marcher’. I receive and I contribute. I am now an exhibitor. Collaboration results in new shapes, new names, new labels, networks, friendship. All I want is for my poetry to be seen as art, this poet to be named artist and many other things happen from the words.

Workshop. Thanks go to One Place East, Merton Centre for Independent Living, Merton Libraries, Archway and District Carers, Cornflower Cancer Support Group and The Ship Inn for letting me workshop with their members. It was a thrill to develop workshops based on their requirements. Poetry as a Career, Poetry as a connected value like choice, control, connectivity, Poetry as meditation and Poetry as part of a wider event. From Redbridge, to Merton, Archway, Barnet and virtual space the workshop forges the troubadour, collaborations emerge in timed sessions, practiced wordsmiths find a little mojo for creative writing and new poets emerge. Creativity meets creation. Is there anything more exciting than new work from new voices?


So the ground work of the active words was laid in 2020. The words for 2021 are more inert; Kindness, Loneliness, Detachment.

These are all words I associate with my mental health. My usual condition the one i’m most at home with is depression. I welcome it, wear it like a blanket. Its what I know. No problem. Occasionally it tips over like it did in November. Maybe that started in August. One more rejection for a tender, a bid, a residency tipped me over the edge, eradicated my confidence. I stopped reaching out for a while and then the usual mood deepened and I found myself crying out for a kind word hence kindness. I am not unkind to myself or to others as a rule though I can be. I have kindness within me. Others have noticed it and commented on it. But whilst I’m not usually unkind to myself seldom am I kind either. So, its there. I want to find a way to put it into my work, use it as a tool to ward off misunderstanding and rejection, see it standing proud in a poem or in a line. Kindness.

Loneliness. I have never felt lonely in my life. But then word visited recently and I saw that I had refused the feeling access to my soul. This is a consequence of my famous depressive numbness and worse corrupting cynicism. Look at it. No one wants it. No one is willing to accept it. Though we know its there to the point that christmas campaigns, charitable endeavor and community reach outs focused almost exclusively on it last year. The lonely street person and me. My loneliness exists in poetic concepts from the lived experience of special school, bullying, abuse, loss of family, stammering, exclusion from sex and relationships. How could I not know I was lonely. How could I refuse myself a feeling, an emotion, to its and my own detriment. Recognition is an opening to go through.

Detachment came to me in dream last night. I was at an exhibition of detachment. I saw a bed full of cuddly toys. The toys were there to challenge detachment. I could have picked one up, attached myself to a bear, felt the value of engagement but what did I do. I woke up. I detached myself. I sat with my computer, alone to write this. Again numb and cynical; minus signs on the attachment/detachment continuum. + resides in understanding better where and how to attach. I’m not bad at it. Troubadour, collaboration, work shop proves this. My work history proves this. But there are things within me that stem from a lack of real kindness, a refusal of loneliness that leads to too much detachment, a place that I am learning was once a defence but is now a barrier. Whilst I remain free to work with others in 2021 i’m going to work more on myself.

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