I've been at Kingston University since late 2014 and really at the institution developed a kind of pedagogy which is supported in literature quite rarely - one that emphasises method, that balances context with content. I have been teaching primarily modern, avant-garde, innovative techniques of poetry and writing in general, alongside explorations into psychoanalysis and some literary theory. Mainly I'm working with remarkably open and enthusiastic students, and developing a small tradition around my module - Experiments and Innovations.
Kingston have also been very supportive in my efforts to connect students to the world of writing and poetry beyond the university, and often I have organised exhibitions and events where students have been involved alongside professional practitioners and vitally, not identified as students, but writers early in their journey.
I conceived of this exhibition for multiple reasons. The first, I wanted to invest in the place. I've been teaching at Kingston University for a few years and wanted to create a platform in the area, outside of London (just) where those living or studying local felt that not everything was east of them, in the city, that there was some focus on the place as other than a place to visit, but to reside, creatively. Second because I wanted students and faculty from across departments to connect, from across ages and years and practises, and I wanted this to happen in the context of the many brilliant poets and artists who were also not associated with the Uni. Too often we're all in our own boxes, in all things, but especially in the pace of teaching or studying. Thirdly, I had hoped new friendships and collaborative relationships would begin and by placing students work next to those who are ostensibly professionals, that many students would take inspiration from that, would get permission to experiment, to follow their own noses, and that it would as a project show them they could go into spaces beyond the university. This is often a problem too, that students feel too safe at university creatively, and this comes to bear painfully when they graduate. Fourthly I had built some fantastic connections with a specific group of students, both undergraduate and postgraduate whom I felt deserved the opportunity to do something special, or unique certainly, and I knew I could rely on them to help me, to make it a collective enterprise. This proved true. And finally, I wanted the actual aesthetic content of the exhibition to be innovative, to explore the potential of text beyond the book, or the visual to be read as a text. In the end we had 40 works of a really striking standard, the exhibition looks genuinely engaging, original and beautiful.
Museum of Futures themselves, Simon Tyrell and Robin Hutchinson, introduced to me by the brilliant Lucy Furlong, were amazingly supportive, doing great work. Myself and the student co-curators, especially Molly Bergin, Olga Kolesnikova and Matt Navey, had a laugh putting it all together on a windy Wednesday in Surbiton. There is real camaraderie to be found in this kind of project. And the opening night was amazing, gratifying. The room was so full someone feinted. Packed to the gills we listened to a host of new collaborative readings I had commissioned for the night and I got to make new friends as well as seeing some of my favourite people, old friends and talents like Thomas Duggan, Alexander Kell and Camilla Nelson. The readings were great and the sense of community, of purpose and excitement was palpable. A special project all told.
All the reading videos and pictures are, or will be, here www.theenemiesproject.com/futures
The University Camarade project - April 23rd 2016 / Feb 25th 2017
The University Camarade asks pairs of creative writing students from different Universities in the UK to collaborate on short new works of poetry or text, for performance. The only participants are students and writing with poets they've never met before, who study within a different institution, this project allows them to expand their practise, knowledge and networks, and takes a stand against purported factionalism or department competition. The innovative collaborative methodology also allows them to include experimentation early in their writing careers, and perform to a large audience.
Both wonderful, positive evening with new collaborations from students - I decided to curate this event for multiple reasons - to show that collaboration is immensely helpful for the development of young poets (into interesting directions anyway), to show that creative writing programs deserve more respect for the quality they can produce, to get past the supposed 'competition' between creative writing departments and to begin to inculcate communities between young writers, or at the very least, to make them feel there are communities out there for them, that people do want to hear and value their more innovative ideas. www.theenemiesproject.com/unicamarade