A Place For Poetry – Poetry in its Place

Yarm writer Maureen Almond has been appointed writer in residence to work with communities in the Portrack and Tilery areas of Stockton.

The residency is managed by Cleveland Arts and based with Stockton on line – a multi-site study centre for adult learners and local community groups. Through workshops, Maureen will be encouraging creative expression by the communities of Portrack and Tilery, through the use of Information Technology, particularly through the use of the internet. The residency forms part of a pilot project supported by the European Commission, and is one of nine running in the UK, France and Germany.

Maureen comments

“They’re not weeping at the Willows in Portrack, they have plenty to say, it’s just a question of finding a voice. There are tales from Tilery, poems from Portrack, stories from Swainby, all waiting to be caught in the net – the INTERNET, and that’s my aim over the next few months. I started as Poet in Residence at Portrack and Tilery a month ago and already there are a few tiddlers dangling on the line, (Stockton on line.) There’s an article about childcare, computer tips, graffito poems, millennium wishes – and did you know Tilery has its very own Froggy? Read the poems from some of our hopping mad mums listed under voices online at www.stockton-online.ac.uk. And they said, ‘you won’t find no poetry ‘ere!’ At The Willows we intend to use monitors as our eyes on the world, keyboards to open doors. We want to talk to people, we want people to talk to us, electronically speaking of course.”

Maureen would like to explode the myth that poetry is just for a select band of people who are seen as being slightly weird.

“For me poetry isn’t just about clouds and daffodils, it’s about ‘the chippy; our Mam; the Social; suspended from school; nowt for the kids to do; it didn’t used to be like that round ‘ere.’”

“I feel very strongly that involvement with poetry sharpens experience. Maybe some people feel the need to “dull down” their lot, especially when their lot is painful, but I would argue that unless you turn on the spotlight and observe more closely and deeply what is happening to you, there is little chance of being able to change anything. It has been said that ‘you only experience a thing when you can express it – however haltingly in your own mind’ (Dorothy L. Sayers). I really believe this to be true. When I started to write I never imagined I would be published. Seven years on I have a pamphlet of poetry Hot, (Mudfog Press 1997) and am about to launch a full collection, Tailor Tacks, in October. I do not come from a traditional academic background but have been studying part-time at Leeds University Centre in Middlesbrough. I think that everyone has poetry in them, just as they have music.”

“If you observe things, people, places and relationships more closely it leads to a greater depth of feeling which in turn leads to a drive to express those feelings and views – to share them. People at The Willows will use computers, the internet and e-mail to connect with others, which means they will have included themselves in our information society. That’s what I want for the Portrack and Tilery Community.”

TVA is a participatory arts organisation, based in Middlesbrough and working across the Tees Valley, helping people change and improve their lives by taking part in the arts. TVA is a small organisation which makes a big impact in imaginative and unexpected ways.