Zena E’s The Writery for Freeing Writers

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The Writery for Freeing Writers
For the past year or so I have been collating tips, techniques and quirky writing prompts to help stay inspired for my writing. When I think about what it means to be a free writer I refer to the writing exercise of free flow, some quality free association –. Imagination is valuable to us. It is crucial for a healthy mind. But sometimes it can get flabby as a muscle, can calcify because it is stuck in one motion of ‘thinking’ (?), Or it might need a prompt to encourage focus because of all the distractions the hectic-ness of life can bring. Sometime we just need little help to ‘free-up’ as creatives.
sparklerThe prompt, tips, tricks, quotes, images are designed to shine a spotlight in the creative creases of your grey matter, to be dowsing sticks that find that gem of an idea floating in the creative slip stream, to be Frankenstein’s life giving machine, a jolt the heart of the imagination into action.

Its become a healthy collection, so I decided to open up the archive  for those who feel they have a creative block at the moment, are a bit bored of their style and want to try something new, or if you just need a kick start. Have a browse and comments and requests are welcome!

The Writery for Freeing Writers

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Human Code Computer Tongue

human-android

University College London, Apples and Snakes poetry organisation and poets, Zena Edwards from Verse in Dialog in collaboration present Human Code Computer Tongue.

When: Monday 20 February 2017, 10am-4pm

Where: UCL, 5th Floor Reception, One Euston Square, 40 Melton St, London NW1 2FD (Please report to the ground floor reception)

Tickets: FREE – but booking essential!

Booking: To book your place, please complete a short expression of interest form and email it to daniela@applesandsnakes.org with the masterclass title as the subject.
Apples and Snakes Website

Our imaginations have never been so challenged in the 21st Century. Have we ever been as cornered  by thoughts of our collective mortality outside the age of enlightenment in relation to the global economic and political climate as we have been over the last 16 years. Science has promised us the GM cures for disease, our continued life on this and other planets as well as bionic bodies, cryogenics freezing and the growing of body parts in petri dishes and on the backs of mice.
But in the race to reach the forever disappearing finish line of immortality,  and despite the intricate and omnipotence of the interweb of handsfree communication and connection, we have never been so connected to each other and yet so disconnected. Our Continue reading “Human Code Computer Tongue”

Legacy – Step One in Being a Freelance Artist

“Legacy” – Writing to make footprints that won’t blow away on the wind

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This goes without saying when it comes to the arts.
I have been involved in youth arts (via writing and performance mainly) since 2000 and its youthful voices that re-imagine our worlds, the physical and emotional world, the fighting and resting world, the dying and living world. A world forever in creation.
When we have creativity in our lives we can anticipate wizened voice resonating with plenty stories behind simple words we might hear. When we must practice our creativity (and if you intended to make it a career) why not look to the purpose of why you would want to use the word, spoken or written as a medium to represent you, your life and sense of purpose. Continue reading “Legacy – Step One in Being a Freelance Artist”

Verbalisation with BeatFreeks at BRep

imageBirmingham with Beatfreeks on Wednesday 27th July.

“How do you find your inspiration for your work?” is the most frequently asked question I get as a writer who performs her work. I can’t deny I am often stumped at the question. I trawl my brain for the one thing  but it just doesn’t work like that. I’m only sure of  a couple of things though – the world is full of inspiration and my gut and my heart have conversations all the time about the abstracts – love, conflict, relationships, frailty, resilience, environment, discrimination and power. Or that centrifugal spin of a coffee cup falling. That tense exchange through eye contact on busy  public transport. A door held open for an Elder. The truth out of the mouth of babes. Continue reading “Verbalisation with BeatFreeks at BRep”

Ekphrasis in Action – An Out-Spoken Masterclass

I have been attempting to vocationally reconcile my love for photography and painting, sketches and imagery with my love of poetic writing and and would be more fitting than to run a masterclass on Ekprhrasis. I’m also in the headspace that art has work to do and I want to see incorporate politically charged with art with writing. Hence, Ekphrasis in Action Poetry challenging metaphors of 21st century visual culture 2016.

The social climate renders pretty much everything political so exploring metaphor in contemporary social, political and cultural visual mediums, how do we as poets use imagery and storytelling to create moments of counter-culture and codify re-imagined culture in our language and poems?

Writing in response to controversial contemporary images, artworks and photo-journalism and through discussion, this session will unpack metaphor and codification in visual culture, interrogating mainstream media narrative in it images and culture creation. The aim is to generate creative writing that is reflective of the poets voice as a social commentator and writer of the century.

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(Ekphrasis: Greek:- Ek – Out. Phrasis – Speak. It is a rhetorical device in which one medium of art tries to relate to another medium by defining and describing its essence and form, and in doing so, relate more directly to the audience, through its illuminative liveliness. A descriptive work of prose or poetry, a film, or even a photograph may thus highlight through its rhetorical vividness what is happening, or what is shown in, say, any of the visual arts, and in doing so, may enhance – subvert, reframe – the original art and so take on a life of its own through its brilliant description.) Continue reading “Ekphrasis in Action – An Out-Spoken Masterclass”

Writing Two Poets – Mongiwekhaya & Afruakan

Recently, I was commissioned by the British Council to interview two poets from South Africa. What was interesting was learning two very different approaches the service of spoken word or poetry in performance can offer the artist and the people who encounter this rich literary form. Mongiwekhaya is a subdued, potent spirit. His quietly considered answers focus on his thoughts about arts and community engagement producing work that is esoteric in its political and social commentary. Thabiso aka Afruakan’s enegry is spark driven to build networks for repurposing and trading the craft for an arts infrastructure to support artists to continue their chosen vocation. Both were very spirited and inspiring skype conversations that ran well over the 30 minutes time we’d put into each of our diaries.

   Mongiwekhaya

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 “I was raised by my Grandmother from birth. I spoke with her words and her tongue and walked the streets of Witbank Township. But one day my parents returned from their travels overseas, collected me and took me up into a silver bird, and we, my sisters and I, were laid on a new earth. No one spoke my grandmother’s tongue. The child that spoke with any and everyone, found himself a ghost in a new place. He told himself little stories to remember himself. But eventually he told himself new stories. In English. And was reborn as someone new.”Mongiwekhaya

Playwright, filmmaker and Royal Court writer Mongi Mthobeni (pen name, Mongiwekhaya) is a hardwired storyteller and the above quote wasthe story he told at the opening question of his interview with Poet and Writer Zena Edwards, when did he know he had chosen his life and career in the performing arts. His natural gift manifests itself today through directing and visual storytelling and his short film project, “Speed of Dark”, reveals a mentoring quality to his creative process when he engages with young artists too.

“Speed of Dark’ is adapted from a dance piece called “Open Happiness”, embracing the wonder South Africans felt about the construction of South Africa’s Underground train – The ‘Gautrain’. I started by introducing the young movement artists to the prolific works of Tom Waits, rich with storytelling. Then introduced them to the theatrical form of the French Buffoon and clowning, the ritualistic shamanic performance of repetition to compound the feeling of awe South African’s felt in a time of economic transition.” Continue reading “Writing Two Poets – Mongiwekhaya & Afruakan”

Mind Meandering #1 – On Storytelling

What started as short blurb with an image for a Facebook post turned into a small project for me – Mind Meanderings.

FB: what’s on your mind? What’s your mood?
Me: …….image*sighs*….

Zena Edwards79
strongly believes #CreativityIsLife #Stories:ReflectionsofCreationWeAre

I often go on and on about Storytelling. Because we live by them.
What we speak, what we *tell* each other (and ourselves) is so much reflected in how we exist in the world and interact with each other.
We can change our worlds (THE World) if we change the stories we tell – murmurings that turn into rumors, that turn into gossip, to lethal propaganda;
nudges of encouragement that turn into affirmations, into mantras into #SoulFood manifesting as acts of kindness and Love.
Everyday we have the potential to change something
through the selection of words *we choose* to string together, making
burdensome chains or bright necklaces of storiesAnthony Mellow.
It’s maze construction.
It’s a kind of math.
It’s problem solving or making.
Its myth, magic and awe inspiring.
We are walking books.

However.
It’s the telling of our stories, to ourselves at least,
where we can begin an internal repair, sustain (restrain where necessary) our very Selves when we see ourselves in the mirror of our own words,
in our own truths unsilenced. image
And even in our despair we can salvage the hero/ine.

We are walking books.
Read You well. Memorize your favourite parts.
Tell You to another, share a truth no other knows.
Even bullshit has its place. Every story serves.
Its how you respond and retell the story that matters.

Walk good across your pages. Let your stumbles and stammers
remain unedited.
Let the author reveal his/her process of creation.
Let the first draft be.
We are walking books, encyclopaedic, epic
Chapters closed (some unfinished, waiting wounds. revisit? edit?)
Brand new pages born everyday…image

Ears and eyes like sharpened pencils
Body, fine tuned antennae
This day, parchment paper.

~Z~

WPD- Security and the Writer/Performer and Director relationship.

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As a poet who is used to standing behind a mic, manipulating my voice and being a little physically  animated, I took the plunge to  write a full length one woman show. The difference between the focus needed for a 10-20 minute set at a spoken word night and  an hour and ten minute  theatre piece are two completely different things. The transition was an intense process. The energy to fill a theatre stage or blackbox studio space is not the same AT ALL as maintaining attention in busy bar. I discovered that mental and physical stamina is a major issue. Also having an outside eye is crucial because  as a poet, I can write and poetise for days but where is the story going? Are the characters clear? Does the narrative make sense? I needed a director. But matching a director to a performing poet was not going to be easy. I met and workshopped with 4!

I’d spoken to a few of my peer poets friends and they informed that they too had found the process difficult. Poets can be internal people, conjuring worlds in their heads that they translate into the word. Dancers will dance. Painters paint and sculptors sculpt. But how do poets who want to turn their imaginary worlds into extended performance pieces communicate them to a director? And how does a director receive and translate that information in rehearsal to the full performance? With further investigation I worked out that a bridge of communication of ideas needed to be worked out. There’s a dynamic 3 Way relationship between the writer, the performer and the director that can become a tangle of objectives if the lines of communication are not established early in on in the rehearsal period.

Back in 2007, theatre director Anthony Shrubsall and I were brought together by sheer fate – a friend of a friend of a friend…. I had been looking for a director for my debut one woman  show, “Security”, for 6 months and had developed it with the help of producer, Talita Moffatt  and director Mike Kirchner to a level that was great, but I felt the journey for the show was not quite unfinished. I knew that the decision to have a stage set (endorsed by me) was obscuring some valuable exploration of myself as a performer and stunting the growth of the rich characters in the script. The show was written in monologue, spoken word, song and movement and set in a cafe. With tables and chairs to manoeuvre around, the flow of the action on stage felt stilted and my line delivery was good but inside, felt stuttered. I needed a fresh approach.

The first thing that I appreciated about working with Anthony was his capacity to really listen to the writer part of me – she (the writer) had a lot to say about themes within the show, which Continue reading “WPD- Security and the Writer/Performer and Director relationship.”

South Africa – Cultures Worth Fighting For

Today, I want to write about the South Africa I love. Not about Malema and Zuma, the travesty of the ANC legacy post-Apartheid or the shocking images of Platinum Miners in South Africa mown down by security forces (warning: graphic video) last week.
I want to write about the South Africa that has so much to offer in terms of its Spirit and I feel this will be the first of a series of posts about it.

Since I saw this horrifying raw piece of footage, I have pulled out all my music, novels and poetry collections to remind me of why SA is still a life changing place to visit.
My personal connection to South Africa is linked to something ethereal. I think. South Africa was my first visit to the African Continent in October 1994, just after the abolition of Apartheid and inauguration of Mandela. My returns since  have been connected to the most important thing that has influenced me as a human being and that is the country’s passion of Creativity – turning the Struggle, concepts of Freedom and Liberation into breath-taking Art, Music and Theatre and Dance. I will always be grateful to Pops Mohamed, Busi Mhlongo, Moses Molelekwa, Madala Kunene, Bheki Mseleku,  the Xhosa Singers of Lady Frere, Dizu Plaatjies, Kheti, Thandiswa,  Zim Ngqawana, and  Vusi Khumalo for the music they have given me.

Recently, I was asked by the  Kassiani Lythrangomitis from the South African Tourist Board for an interview about my life as an artist and my relationship to SA. Below is the podcast.

Click to visit the Global South Africa  Website

In 1998, I was on tour with Pops Mohamed and the NGQOKO Women’s Cultural Group of Lady Frere – from the Ngqoko Village in the Eastern Cape. This choir is one of the last practitioners of the Umngqokolo (overtone) singing – an ambient trance song that made my hair stand on end, stirring the spirit in my very bones. I remember our tour to Zurich, Germany, Paris…. My mind was so alert as I was taught how to play Umgube (mouthbow) and some of their deep-rooted traditional songs whilst riding the tour bus. These Women knew  how to party. One prominent memory of this tour was shopping in Paris. Parisiens stared as they walked through the chilly moist streets near Monmartre in layers of blankets, beads and headwraps  and I was flipping mental somersaults speaking in broken french to market vendors translating their utterances into  my even more scanty Xhosa to help the ladies get the right sized clothing for their children. But it worked. My brain was so alert. It was a  time and tour I will never forget.


Here is Singing the Praises of Women – a poetic and song collaboration with The Lady Frere Singers, live in Geneva.

One of the other highlights of my SA connections in poetry and music was recording with the late, great Busi Mhlongo – one of the most powerful women I have met. She was a giant on stage. In 2000, still very early in my poetry writing career, I was lucky enough to be asked to contribute a poem to her internationally acclaimed album, Urbanzulu.
The track itself is epic and seemed to call for an epic poem – one that was declamatory and rousing.

To be continued…

Womens Corner interview – Vox Africa

Rochelle Ferguson, is an independent producer for Vox Africa and when I received a call from her to appear on her program ‘Women’s Corner’ for a short interview, I was honoured to be part of a weekly happening especially designed to inspire, inform and affirm women. It was such a great interview. I was made to feel at ease and I must say I have a lot respect for Rochelle and her ambition to be successful in the media industry with this much needed and inspiring concept. Thanks for the invite, Rochelle.

TO WATCH MORE WOMEN’S CORNER CLICK HERE

My Time at LISPA

During a course at the London International School of Performance Arts, I had taken a module called The Dramatic Space. Students were asked to explore the energies in the a space and how with full body extension and contraction in movement, eyeline and wordless sound, the size and energy of a space can be changed by the illusion of the action of the performers on stage. I took the course because I felt a little rusty and remembered the stamina needed for Security, my first one woman show, and how performance classes influenced my approach to my writing.

Watch Mahmoud, a 47 Palestinian man, self-exiled to London.

I was able to edit, analyze the concepts of movement, song and character expression replacing text. I became less precious about text and as a writer, that was a huge step. What was also really most interesting was how the language and natural rhythms innate in all our personality traits, quirks and natural expressiveness is written into character mono or dialogue if the characters are explored well. Their back story is crucial.

What I loved about The Lispa courses also was because, of their intense nature, (I love to work in short, compact bursts) the immediacy of making working, the spontaneity and quick team collaborations  generating raw, moving and very funny scenes pulled  an uncensored creativity from me – no time to judge, only to respond with fearless authenticity to some of the difficult tasks set.

LISPA is a very interesting world of drama exploration and has helped me with what is means to perform with and without text. The course helped me look deeper into my writing styles, techniques, patterns and flow.

**CLICK HERE FOR THE LISPA WEBSITE**

FESTIVAL, SHAKESPEARE AND CO – and my lost voice

Shakepeare & Company Book on Paris Left Bank

I’ve been gutted about missing performance, trains, planes, friends gigs and birthday parties before, but I have never been so disappointed at being denied to perform at a gig because of illness. I had been Scheduled to read/perform between, Hanif Kureshi and Yusuf Kumonyakaa and my voice had deserted me, left me with what sounded lke sandpaper being dragged across the back of a miserable toad. Gutted. I was in Paris, it was the coming into Autumn, the air was fresh, the festival buzzing and my voice was gone. The festival organisers were really cool and told me to take it easy, “take the pressure off”,  relax. they realized before I did that I had been working to hard. My voice folded half way though a performance of my one woman show “Security” at the Shizoka Theatre Festival in Japan. I attempted to sing. Toad croaked instead.

But I had a great interview that got me tracking my career path, investigating why  had reached a point of exhaustion that my voice packed and went on vacation without me.

Click for Festival details

Zena E’s Festival Interview by Adam Biles

“I fell into poetry when I was training to do stage management. I did the lighting and designing for a group of dynamic, young, black writers. I went to the group for a while and started re-exploring my writing, which was something I had always done as a child. But there wasn’t much of a scene in London at the time, and it wasn’t until I was in South Africa eight years later, working with a musician friend of mine, that I started writing some poetry again. I went along to a night called Monday Blues and got up and read this rough little poem I had in my notebook, and I really enjoyed it. So when I got back to London I checked out the spoken word scene and found myself falling back into it again, and it escalated from there. I never believed it would get me to the point when I could come to a festival like this. I was just having fun, but people kept inviting me back.

“The scene in London has exploded over the last seven years. There are so many circles that occasionally overlap. I’m lucky enough that I can pretty much move through all of them. There’s a spoken word cabaret scene, a spoken word comedy scene, another very literary scene, a black scene, a music and spoken word scene, which is huge in London now.

“London is a great place. I’ve got a love-hate relationship with it, but I definitely wouldn’t be the person I am if I hadn’t endured the tensions and joys of that city. It’s a place of Continue reading “FESTIVAL, SHAKESPEARE AND CO – and my lost voice”

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