Celebrating Slam Poetry: A Workshop With Harry Baker (UK)

Harry Baker, photo by Anthony Milas

Harry Baker, photo by Anthony Milas

What? Me- go to a poetry workshop?

When it was suggested that I represent Splice at Harry Baker’s poetry workshop, the machine gun of doubt immediately fired a volley of shots in my head.  Would everyone attending be up and coming poets and I the only beginner? Would I be expected to actually write poetry? Would I have to read it OUT LOUD TO A GROUP OF STRANGERS?!

Oh well…. I had decided with my recent change in city and job that I was in a phase of ‘new stuff’ so I counted my blessings at another opportunity.

Guided by my faithful GPS I headed towards the unknown territory of Bethells’ Beach.

Arriving safely at the beautiful Te Henga Studios, (Photo) my first thought was ‘If I need inspiration I’m in the right place.’  I used my early arrival to venture a little further down the road to Bethells Beach. If I needed more inspiration to get into ‘poetry mode’ the black sand and spectacular scenery fitted the bill.

On my return I met the other participants. They talked ‘poetry’ - when they’d started writing and what they’d written. Now I love writing but no-one has seen, let alone heard my musings. My children will probably uncover them when I’m long gone and I doubt they’ll posthumously class me as a writer or a poet!

I’d watched Harry Baker on YouTube and envied his very clever way with words and his entertaining delivery. Those of you who saw Harry perform in the city will know what I mean. In person he was humble, easy-going and not at all threatening. I relaxed as he told us little bits of his story and coached us along.

He started with a simple scenario and told us to write about it. I wrote.

He asked us to write down ‘three good things’. I wrote.

As we read them out, everyone else’s ‘good things’ sounded much more amusing and creative than mine, but we chose, with the help of the group, which one of our good things would be best to develop – within a time frame. Then we were sent away to write.

I wrote! I developed! I completed my ‘poem’!

Back in the circle we each read out our poem. In spite of the obvious talent of other participants my nervousness about going public flew out the window and I ‘performed’! The feed-back was positive and encouraging. So much so that I’m wondering if I might have been a bit of a bumblebee! (See below!)

An excerpt from Harry’s poem ‘The Scientist and the Bumblebee’

The Scientist said
The bumblebee couldn’t fly
She lacked the wingbeats per minute or the necessary size,
But the bumblebee
In her ignorance proved him wrong,
She knew that she could fly because she’d flown all along
Imagine if she’d listed to the man,
She might have stopped, given up on the spot, tucked her wings in and dropped.
So don’t ever let someone tell you what you can’t do,
Because just because it’s proven

Doesn’t mean it’s true…..


- Sandy Ritchie