By Jamie Thorogood, Block 4
At the start of this lockdown, I was worried we’d be missing out on all of Bedales’ brilliant talks and performances… but I stand corrected! This week we were visited by Deanna Rodger, a multi-award-winning slam poet, who joined us online to lead a workshop for Bedales students and give a poetry reading for Bedales Events’ annual Poetry Series.
For the workshop, there were about 12 of us, so it was easy to ask questions and get our voices heard. We started the workshop with an icebreaker – each of us had to write small sentences on what ‘freedom’ meant to us. Then, we compiled them all into one big, spoken poem, and Deanna performed it for us (I’m surprised at how good it sounded, honestly). In the end, I think we all concluded that ‘freedom’ for us meant not having to set an alarm in the morning!
Next, Deanna introduced us to free writing. Essentially, we had to write about something for three minutes without stopping or taking our pen off the page. It’s an exercise that really helps with writer’s block. Our first topic title was ‘A mother once said’, and we had three minutes to write a poem with that title. I did struggle a bit with it at first, but I got the hang of it eventually. After those three minutes we quickly moved on to the second title, ‘My face as a map’, then after that, the last one: ‘Home as a smell’. Once we’d put all our thoughts onto paper, Deanna told us to take our favourite sections from each of them and compile them into one, big poem. Although this stumped me slightly (I didn’t know where to start!), there were some absolutely gorgeous poems from everybody else.
After the workshop, there was just enough time for a quick dinner before Deanna’s poetry reading, talk and Q&A for Bedales Events. To open the event, Deanna led another icebreaker. We were told to think of the emotion we’d been feeling most that day, then write that emotion as a place, a food, a mode of transport and a person (I chose hopeful).
After that, Deanna started her talk. I bet it was hard talking to yourself in front of a camera, but she was so friendly it was like you were in the room with her. She performed two of her poems, Being British and Ode to Summer Infant Duo, both of which were engaging and beautifully structured. Afterwards, Head of English David Anson hosted a Q&A where Deanna talked about her inspirations (Mariah Carey, obviously), the time she wrote her first poem (after having a fight, obviously), and her plans to write a Disney musical (as does everyone else, obviously).
Both the talk and the workshop were excellent, and it was great getting advice from a real poet. I’m sure I can say on behalf of everyone that I hope Deanna comes back soon.