Tate Modern Course

Poetry: Weaving Sensory Identities Led by Dorothea Smartt

Ellen Gallagher Deluxe 2004 to 5 detail

This five-week poetry course will engage your senses and perceptions in expressing something of our own and others’ identities – imagined, real, mythical and futuristic.

...just out of sight. Not what you see, but what you perceive:/ that's poetry...
– Lighthead's Guide to the Galaxy, Terrance Haynes 

Art, discussion, and creative writing exercises will encourage you to play with forms and create new poems. Here is your chance to enjoy Tate Modern when the galleries are closed to the public. We will spend four sessions in the Ellen Gallagher exhibition and one week in the Saloua Raouda Choucair exhibition, every week working directly with art. Contemporary poems will be used as models to inspire your writing.

Over the course you will experiment with a range of techniques and exercises such as free verse, Twitter as poetic form, cut-up poetry and the ‘Golden Shovel’ technique. The final session will be a ‘poetry salon’ with an opportunity to read your poetry.

This course is suitable for writers with some experience of poetry workshops.

Dorothea Smartt is an internationally respected poet and workshop facilitator. Her poetry collections are Connecting Medium and Ship Shape. She is Associate Poetry Editor of SABLE Litmag. Smartt has been ‘attached live artist’ at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and a guest writer at Florida International University and Oberlin College. Her poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies including Bittersweet (Women’s Press, 1998), The Fire People (Payback Press, 1998), Mythic Women/Real Women (Faber, 2000), IC3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain (2000), and A Storm Between Fingers (Flipped Eye, 2007).

Smartt has been called 'part of a chorus of voices from the diaspora' by the poet Kwame Dawes. The power of a chorus is that it grows, and is both one and many. Smartt is a powerful, warm, sophisticated part of that chorus. poetryinternationalweb.net

The course aims:

  • to encourage and learn about different playful and adventurous approaches to creative writing
  • to weave poems that express something of ourselves and others – real/imagined; earthly/unearthly; ancestral/futuristic; ordinary/surreal
  • and to provide an opportunity for participants to share their poetry in a poetry salon environment

Week one

Monday 17 June 18.45–20.15, Level 3
In this first session, we will spend the evening in the Ellen Gallagher: AxME exhibition, particularly focusing on Gallagher’s DeLuxe series and detail Star Glow Wigs. Dorothea Smartt will introduce participants to the poetic form Synesthesia (a blending or intermingling of different senses in description) and Free Verse. Ronnie McGarth’s Me Think. Them Think poem and Dorothea Smartt’s  5 Strands of Hair will be used as models to inspire your writing.

Week two

Monday 24 June 18.45–20.15, Level 3
In this second session course participants will again be in the Ellen Gallagher: AxME exhibition, this time looking at Gallagher’s Murmur 2003–4. The group will create a poem out of cut-up writing and also look at the idea of doubling and things that exist simultaneously.

Week three

Monday 1 July 18.45–20.15, Level 4
This week will be spent in the Saloua Raouda Choucair exhibition and in particular the work Intercircles. Course participants will look at their place in the Universe, in the bigger picture – divine, comic consciousness; being ‘held’ by invisible threads, circles of life, mythological ideas of the world; of fantastical creatures. You will look at repetition in poetry and artwork and where meaning, changes and perceptions shift. Twitter as poetic form will be used to create a poem with 68 characters! 

Week four

Monday 8 July 18.45–20.15, Level 3
The fourth session will be spent back in the Ellen Gallagher: AxME exhibition using the Golden Shovel technique originated by the poet Terrance Hayes. This form invites you to borrow from a poem in order to create. Gallagher’s Bird in Hand and Watery Ecstatic will be used as sources of inspiration as well as poems by Anthony Joseph, Dorothea Smartt and Terrance Hayes to create futuristic, fantastical poems.

Week five

Monday 15 July 18.45–20.15, Level 3
The final session will take the form of a Poetry Salon in the Ellen Gallagher: AxME exhibition where participants will have an opportunity to read their poems along with guest poet, artist and musician Ronnie McGrath (Data Trace, Salt Publishing, 2010). ‘Our Poetry Salon: a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host (Ellen Gallagher and Tate), held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants... consciously following Horace’s definition of the aims of poetry: 'to please or to educate' (Dorothea Smartt).

Tate Modern

London SE1 9TG
Plan your visit


Every Monday at 18.45–20.15 and 18.45–20.15 and 18.45–20.15 and 18.45–20.15 and 18.45–20.15

17 June – 15 July 2013

Related events

  • Tate Modern


    Ellen Gallagher: AxME

    1 May – 1 Sep 2013
    Past exhibition of acclaimed North American artist Ellen Gallagher at Tate Modern

Find out more