Among Woods and Water is a specially-commissioned anthology of North East poetry inspired by and dedicated to the Northern Poetry Library.

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The anthology is collection of poems penned by NPL poets-in-residence, and by members of the public and community groups across the library’s native North East who come together to celebrate the region’s poetic legacy and future. Poets worked with the community groups to explore different poetic forms and encourage more people to create poetry.

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The anthology features one original poem by each of the six poets and separate collaborative pieces devised by groups. Pieces span a wide range of subjects from landscapes, identity, and mortality.

Writing poetry collaboratively

NPL’s poets-in-residence teamed up with writing and reading groups – some experienced, some who had never attempted a poem before – to explore poetry in workshops led by the poets. The poems that have emerged are wonderfully evocative of place and experience. You will find a variety of forms, from villanelles, via established collaborative forms like the renga, to anchored tersets, and each poem is accompanied by workshop notes from each of the resident poets, giving unique views of the writing workshop and creative process.

Browse the poems

Behind the scenes at a poetry workshop

Lead Poet Lisa Matthews, when resident at NPL, led a small-scale workshop on pieces about poetry and libraries, shared below:

This workshop activity requires at least two people, one of whom is a facilitator. When doing this exercise with a group, it helps to arrange the room so as to sit in a round.

1. Each person writes a single paragraph about a particular subject – in this case we wrote about poetry. Write for ten minutes maximum, trying not to pause or edit.

2. The facilitator then guides participants through a series of editorial steps, of which the following are examples, to be carried out and marked up on their paragraph. It can help to use different colours for the various steps. Underline:

the final six words of your paragraph

the image you like most 

a single word in the text selected at random 

all the verbs or adjectives

the middle line of the paragraph

another random word plus the two words before and after it 

the opening eight words of your paragraph

3. Put the paragraphs to one side and do something else for at least twenty minutes – another writing activity or a take break.

4. Coming together as a group, each person starts a new piece of paper, preferably lined. Led by the facilitator, each writes the first of the ‘underlinings’ of their paragraph on the new sheet – in this case the final six words of the paragraph – on the top line. The paper is then passed to the person on the left.

5. Beginning a new line under the first, each participant writes the next underlining from their paragraph – in this case their favourite image. Continue with this process of writing a new line harvested from each person’s own paragraph, passing the paper on, like a game of consequences.

6. Sometimes the facilitator may choose to do particular things with the underlinings – for instance, requiring one of the words
to be repeated.

7. Once all the steps have been carried out, one line following another in the round to create a full-grown ‘poem’, participants then review what appears on their piece of paper. Use the material as a draft to create a new poem or piece of prose.

What follows is one of the poems Julie Brown and I created using this collaborative method. The original as it appeared on the sheet of paper is shown below, followed by Julie’s progressive edit and then mine, as together we refine the piece into a poem. We made an effort not to change too many of the words from the original. This is a work-in-progress and shows just one of the ways people can work jointly on poems in writing workshop settings.

ORIGINAL writing
Poetry Is A Blueprint Of Emotion
Come forth boldly without fear
Between between between
To be dipped into
A hidden door in a library wall
Left unsaid allowing the self
Our lives that make it

EDIT #1 (Julie Brown)

Poetry is a Blueprint of Emotion

Come forth boldly without fear to read
Between between between the inky lines
To be dipped into perhaps to find
A hidden door in a library wall, where words
Left unsaid allow the self to touch
Our lives that make it indelible.

EDIT #2 (Lisa Matthews)

Blueprint

Come forth boldly without fear to read
Between, between, between the inky lines
To be dipped into, perhaps to find

A hidden door in a library wall, where words
Left unsaid allow the self to touch
The lives that make it indelible.

Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future. Ray Bradbury, science fiction writer