Meet the Artists

Ella Frears

We have been working with Ella Frears who has created a brilliant three-step film on how to create a film poem, which forms as part of our Film Poetry Competition. We asked Ella what excites her about being a poet, the importance of film poems and how art can help us get through a pandemic.

1. What excites you about being a poet?
I love the hard work – the feeling of things clicking into place after labouring over a poem for days/months/years. There’s something magic about poetry and its capacity as a form to take seemingly endless amounts of weirdness, darkness, humour – to carry it all in the space of a few lines.

2. What is important about film poems?
It’s another way of communicating – of conveying a text or idea. When film poems are good, they combine the best parts of poetry, visual art and sound to create something direct and utterly affecting.

3. What part can poetry and art play in helping us get through the pandemic?
Writing and reading helps us connect to one another. The poems I’ve read over lockdown have expanded my world outside this little flat – they’ve nourished me. There’s a particular intimacy between speaker (within the poem) and reader. I find the strange specifics of others comforting – I don’t think I’m alone there.

4. What advice would you give to anyone who would like to become a poet?
Write! There’s no way around it – start now. And read poems by others. How did you become an artist?I made work. I went to exhibitions, events, readings. I sent off lots of applications for schemes, scholarships, residencies, grants. I made more work. I entered competitions. Gradually things started to happen.

Susmita Bhattacharya

Susmita has created a brilliant resource package for young people which teaches how to write your own poem. We will be working with Susmita, ArtfulScribe and key schools in Southampton where the poems will form as part of KRYT by Gijs van Bon for the Southampton Mayflower 400 programme. KRYT is a beam of clear blue laser light that writes poems on a wall, before fading away, leaving space for new words. We asked Susmita what excites her about being a poet, how she became a writer and the importance of learning poetry in schools.

  1. What excites you about being a poet?

I write across all genres but what I find especially about writing poetry is that it is more personal. I find that I surprise myself when I write poetry – it is never planned, unlike writing short stories or novels. So, the final result is always a surprise, like unwrapping a present, or opening a box to find an emotion, a thought or a memory when I least expected it. That’s why I love writing poetry.

  1. What is important about learning poetry in schools?

Education is not just about learning for a future career. To gain top grades in exams. If only the whole concept of education would be revised and updated. Why is poetry treated with disdain, or with fear by many? It’s because the system has made poetry out-of-touch and unreachable. It mustn’t be that way. Poetry is important for self-expression, it is important as a challenge for the brain, it is important for children to connect with their emotions and free expression through words – and poetry can do all of that. Poetry should be contemporary and real – not just ancient ones that today’s generation can’t connect with. Poetry writing requires all the processes needed to solve say, a maths problem, it should be given importance in schools because children are not so inhibited when it comes to writing poetry or expressing themselves, and so the curriculum must include poetry for their mental and emotional wellbeing as well.

  1. What part can poetry and art play in helping us get through the pandemic?

Poetry and art have been a huge part of my own experience of getting through the pandemic. It takes the mind of the scary realities we’re facing at the moment. And it is also a way of expressing those fears. It relaxes the mind, and the outcome gives pleasure, or a sense of peace, or a way of venting out frustration. I’ve worked with young people throughout the lockdown and we found that being together (online of course) and writing poetry gave all of us a respite from the worries, the uncertainty of the present situation and a way of working together to create something beautiful.

  1. What advice would you give to anyone who would like to become a poet?

I would say read a lot. Write without censoring yourself. Don’t feel writing poetry is a daunting task. Write for yourself, and enjoy the process. Listen to poetry. Write regularly.

  1. How did you become a writer?

My first degree is in art and graphic design. I never thought I’d be a writer one day, although I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. It started with enrolling for an evening writing course in Cardiff, and sharing my work with the tutor and the group. The feedback I got made me realise, and also encouraged me to think about submitting my writing to magazines etc. When work started getting accepted and appreciated, I thought I should pursue it more seriously. I did an MA in Creative Writing because it had a teaching aspect to it, and started teaching and writing in my spare time. My debut novel was published 8 years after my Masters, and I’ve just continued writing and teaching creative writing and I just love what I do