Performance poet Rich Grant, aka Dreadlockalien led workshops with the Year 9s during a recent visit. He delivered fast-paced, incisive poetry then got the students to compose their own versions.
Rich started composing after joining the literary society at Warwick University. His first performance was an impromptu recitation of lyrics and Jamaican poetry and the audience was so impressed he decided to carry on. He was named Birmingham’s Poet Laureate in 2005/6 and now runs three arts education companies delivering a range of workshops with poets visiting nearly 400 schools a year.
He said: ‘I am not from a traditional written, academic science of writing. I never wanted to be published, I never will be published. I am strictly and zealously about live literature which is spoken word, oral tradition, freestyling and performance. There is a whole skill base akin to that that is different to the science of writing and academia. Writing and literacy skills do come into it; I don’t disrespect those, but the journey from page to stage is what I really like. You can get it to a certain stage on the page with beautiful words, description, arrangement but then instead of making it look good or sound good on paper with cadence, reading and punctuation we then look at performance skills, delivery, eye contact, tone, imagery, movement and gesture.
‘Every day there are things that influence you. I try to write every day, whether that is a freestyle poem written in my head while I am driving or else I research three or four new words so I am building vocabulary all the time. Learning and writing is a big part of what I do.
‘We make the workshops fun, fast-paced, with rhyme, creating beautiful images. I teach the students useful poetry; things they may use in ten year’s time to say sorry to someone. We have fun with words, with their names, it is very competitive, they challenge me to rhyme words and do beat boxing. If I can awaken and excite even one person in the class about writing then that is job done.’
Librarian Mrs Adams said: ‘Rich’s enthusiasm and vibrant delivery enthused and challenged the students, many of whom have not have experienced performance poetry, which is an immediate and exciting art form and very different from the traditional poetry that they are familiar with.’