It would be fair to say that we are a lucky bunch of writers at the Geneva Writers' Group. We get more than our fair share of outstanding writers coming to our biennial conference or for individual workshops and master classes throughout the year. In the four years I have been in Geneva, I have had the pleasure of personally benefiting from the writing inspiration and advice of Naomi Shihab Nye, Bret Lott, Dinty Moore, Tanarive Due, Brenda Shaugnessy, Michèle Roberts, Aracelis Girmay, Tessa Hadley and so many others. We might be forgiven for occasionally getting a little blasé about our good fortune, taking it for granted and forgetting just what an outstanding opportunity it is to interact with such talented authors.
However, on the 16th of January, on our first workshop of the year 2016, we forgot all our cynicism and were wowed by the art of Anthony Anaxagorou, a young poet and performer (and educator and publisher and playwright, I could go on and on) from London. We don't often give standing ovations, but we did give one to him!
Anthony also opened our eyes to the possibilities of the spoken word, especially for those of us who had previously dismissed it as rapping, hip-hop or even just 'ranting'. He debunked the myth of strict dichotomy between elitist 'page poetry' in its ivory tower and populist 'performance poetry' with a limited vocabulary. After all, Shakespeare remains one of our most revered and cerebral poets, yet his purpose was to entertain and to be performed.
With his gentle encouragement and imaginative writing exercises, by the end of the day we managed to get a record 16 people to sign up to perform in the Poetry Slam. Congratulations to all the brave participants, who were by turns poignant, moving, amazing and hilarious! And a big thank you to Anthony, who has opened our minds to a very different poetic approach. I am sure many of us will now be challenging ourselves to attempt the 'spoken word' more frequently. Or, at the very least, rethink the way we do our poetry readings.