Since my MA started in September I’ve been getting coerced into writing things on the spot and reading them out just as they are, unedited, unchecked, sometimes unfinished, after five or ten minutes. Happily since we see so much of what one another write on this course, the risk of looking stupid is proportionally smaller each time we read out something new.

Yesterday we met at the South London Gallery to respond to the Neuenschwander exhibition there by writing POEMS. I’m not sure what POEMS are, nor whether what we wrote were POEMS, nor if – whether they were poems or not – writing them made us POETS.

It was difficult at first having to make things with someone new in the room (a real POET had joined us to lead the way), and my reaction in the first eight-minute writing bee was to be silly and cross, and to not take quite seriously the constraint of a ten line poem with two lines per each of the five senses. I couldn’t see what a POEM was, and I couldn’t see why I might like to differentiate between these SENSES. I even introduced an imaginary Strepsil which I hadn’t really been sucking at all, to maverickishly break the rule that we write about our experience of the exhibition.


Then we had eight minutes to stick to a single sense and write eight lines, again about the exhibition. I’m not sure which sense I’d picked and I spread it out over eight lines at random, which was rather maverickish. But I did like this one more, and read out all in one gulp so that by the end of it my breath unexpectedly ran out over the pile on the floor.


The last poem had to be in three-line stanzas, which was a constraint I found helpful. The idea was to write as though we’d been closed into the gallery overnight, with the work all still running but darker of course, because there’d be no sunlight from the glass in the roof. It struck a chord with the final paragraph of the review I wrote last week, in which I imagined the work communicating amongst itself:

“But the real project of the exhibition is internal to itself, and operates beyond the reach of the viewer: in their formal, causal and temporal analogies the works answer one another entirely, relating to one another as only things can relate to other things. The circuit of relations pulls a closed membrane around the works, resolutely guarding against the integration of the onlooker: contained but suspended, and just out of reach.”

… and I imagined that if I were able to stay there all night and take care to behave as a human being would, then the objects might begin to allow me to correspond with them on their own terms, as objects would.