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We’re kicking off our new Q&A series with a nod to National Poetry Month as SW’s founder/director Judith-Kate Friedman and Community Relations Coordinator Sam Robinson discuss the intersection of poetry, spontaneous group creation, and SW’s Signature Songwriting Workshops!
Sam: A poem is the distillation of an individual’s memories, artistic influences, current mood, and intention. An SW-workshop composed song consists of a similar distillation, except it emanates from the group, rather than the individual. Could you comment on the similarities and differences between these two creative environments?
JK: SW’s song process is a grand improvisation that moves from conversation and inquiry….(“What should we write about today?”) to the crafting of lyric, poetry, rhythm and melody. As participant’s thoughts are captured verbatim on the easel sheets the group sees as well as hears their individual – and soon collective – natural rhythm, cadences, rhymes, off-rhymes and alliteration that show up.
Sam: What role does that facilitator play in helping crystallize the thoughts, emotions, melodies, and mood of the participants?
JK: SW’s facilitators bring their love of the musicality within words and their experience crafting lyrics and poetic forms from random phrases to teach and illustrate what the group is bringing forth. They use repetition and call and response to help the group entrain to the rhythms of keeper lines (though this also happens very organically with no prompting from a professional!). Participants focus on elements of speech, image and emotion as facilitators read from the easel sheets and recap what’s been said in the group. As words, images and lines are circled and phrases are spoken out loud to feel their rhythm, melodies may pop out or be invited for a great line (“Who has a melody for that?”). Poetic aspects are addressed and learned about in the process – not so much intellectually as literally and viscerally. This way, participants in all cognitive situations and of all levels of experience are equally in-the-moment of creativity together.
Sam: Are there any poems or poets in particular that infuse your approach to workshops?
JK: While there isn’t a particular poem or poet that has influenced the Songwriting Works™ process or my approach to facilitating, poetry itself informs me all the time. The SW approach to listening involves creating a relaxed environment in which people are truly themselves, talking the way they really talk about things they care about or dream about. As they share their stories, the facilitator’s job is to show the group the beauty in the poetry of their own speech as we select “keeper lines” and build upon their images to make the lyric and find the music of the song.
See that process in action through this clip: