7. South Speak

Poetry so often remains caught within a formal world of white pages and little black marks. Why are poems not colourful, kaleidoscopic depictions of the world they describe?

To explore this question, seven poets responded to an open call-out to write about South London and collaborate with Sam Petherbridge to transform their words into pieces of visual art.

At Deptford's APT Gallery, South Speak exhibited these 'art-poems' in August 2019 as part of August Collectives. This was a culmination of an interdisciplinary project that encouraged poets to experiment with publishing their work as visual art.

The seven poets invited were; Cai Draper, CIL, Esther Heller, Lauren Haine, Poppy Frean, Rosanna Hildyard and Slam the Poet.

The act of mapping the diverse narratives in this bustling city takes us in all sorts of directions. Sometimes we celebrate and beautify, sometimes we criticize and mourn. But we always find touchstones that unify and give us some sense of belonging in this dizzyingly quick world. Some of the poets have lived here all their lives, some are just passing through but they are all keen to tell these stories in new ways.

On stage, the modern spoken word movement has challenged traditions that dictate how poetry should be read and experienced. South Speak takes inspiration from this, and encourages writers to now explore the visual possibilities of the written word. 

Here you will find poems cut up and projected on walls, scribbled on found objects or listed in auction catalogues. The process aims to present the written word appropriately, but with a beauty of its own.

This can only be achieved if poets are willing to explore other forms and South Speak presents the work of poets who have been willing to take the leap between art worlds. All the work on display has been made as part of a cross-art collaboration, each poet working closely with Sam Petherbridge on the visual presentation of their poem, deciding with Sam how best to integrate the tools of fine art into their own practice

For Sam, the collaborative aspect is his favourite thing about the project: “Personally, I think a lot about the process of collaboration as well as the outcome. The richness of the exhibition shows how everyone can gain from a shared creative practice.”