Tees Women Poets Storm the Fine Art World – again!

Apples and Snakes’ Regional Co-ordinator, Kirsten Luckins talks to us about her time running workshops, making poetry and kicking some serious (eye) balls with the Tees Women Poets at the Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art (that’s ‘mima’ to you!)

It was a real pleasure for me and the Tees Women Poets to be involved in another mima exhibition last weekend, as we’d been hoping for a return ever since our highly successful performance in the Louise Bourgeois exhibition last year.localism-new-logo

The fab curatorial team at mima invited us (and many other local groups, artists and makers) to ‘put on a turn’ for their Localism exhibition, a truly grassroots-up celebration of Teesside culture and history. We were scheduled to be on the menu at their closing celebration, and with not a lot of time in hand we decided on a simpler approach than our previous perambulatory group piece.

Group members Diane Taylor, Natalie Scott, Julie Hogg and Gail Henderson all wrote poems in response to one of the pieces in the main gallery. They then became ‘poetic interpreters’ of that artwork, spending the afternoon giving intimate one-to- one performances of their poem to visitors to the gallery – and chatting with them too!

David Watson, one of the featured visual artists, was there and heard the poem he’d inspired. He said “it summed up my work better than I ever could have” and was moved to share it on Facebook. Feedback from gallery visitors suggests the addition of a personalised poet guide really made the day special.

I decided I would offer a short workshop on ‘Eyeball Kicks’, which are random unions of adjective and noun taken quickly and unthinkingly from available texts. It’s a technique devised by Allen Ginsberg to blast a way through cliché and provide the mind with a cognitive jolt similar to that delivered by modern art. (I know all of this because Ross Sutherland led a workshop about it at the recent Arvon/Apples residential course for young writers. I have shamelessly stolen the workshop, as I promised him I would.)

We decided we would find as many eyeball kicks as possible in ten minutes to describe our host town, Middlesbrough. We each then selected our favourite three, and collectively we decided on the order of the poem. What was very interesting was how the poem quickly seemed to take on meaning, as our brains naturally worked to create connections and significance out of random nonsense!

This is the result:


Middlesbrough is an unpopular vegetable
Middlesbrough is an instrument for lobsters
Middlesbrough is an autistic saint

Middlesbrough is phoning all the time
Middlesbrough is a sharp sheep-wash
Middlesbrough is a bad-smelling perspective

Middlesbrough is a coral of propellers
Middlesbrough is paving the air
Middlesbrough is a vessel of nocturnal socio-economic organization

Middlesbrough is a well-earned cross
Middlesbrough is a blind memorial
Middlesbrough is mad up of heroes

Middlesbrough is a tentative god
Middlesbrough is the aim of escape
Middlesbrough is a right-hand crime

Middlesbrough is a sparse column
Middlesbrough is a disguised death
Middlesbrough is indeed impossible

Love art and poetry? Find out more about our final Picture the Poet exhibition, finishing in Carlisle.