Interview: Naomi Wood
Naomi Wood is a multi-disciplinary artist, performer and writer from Hastings who works and performs across Hastings, Brighton and London. She works with the Poetry Brothel London as well as the Poetry Brothel Hastings, performing and producing shows, and regularly works with The Feminist Bookshop facilitating writing workshops. As part of Medway River Lit she will be hosting two writing workshops on Monday 5 June and Wednesday 7 June. Our interviewer, David Dykes, took the time to speak to her and find out what might be in store for you…
How did you get started as a writer and workshop host? As an artist you also work in the circus art and other performance arts, has that fed into your writing?
My Masters was in Creative and Critical writing which I studied in 2011 at Sussex Uni. I'd always written short stories and I was getting into writing graphic novels at the time but I felt a bit confused and directionless. I had a diagnosis of a malignant tumour (thankfully operable and I'm now totally fine) and it set me on a path of doing things that scared me so I ventured into performance arts and the circus (my one-person Fringe show is all about this journey!)
In 2017 I discovered The Poetry Brothel London and really became intrigued by poetry performance and merging it with cabaret and circus. I particularly enjoy spoken word as it brought my two worlds together in a way that felt important.
I feel like performance is very important to your poetry. Your poetry often reads as very conversational, do you often think about the audience when writing your poetry, and does it shape and influence your work?
I suppose my poetry feels conversational because I'd like it to be accessible and feel natural like it's just occurring to me. I want the audience to feel like they can relate to it and maybe I'm articulating something they've felt or known already in a fresh and colourful way.
There is something quite transformational and, dare I say it, transcendental about poetry performance. It's raw and vulnerable when all you have is your words and thoughts and I believe we are all searching to be seen and understood as we really are, whilst trying to make the world a better place; to imagine something new as well as acknowledging what we have.
Some poets really struggle with a particular aspect of poetry; beginning a poem, bringing together ideas, finding imagery or a novel way to describe something. What do you most often struggle with?
I really struggle with editing and refining. I get overly attached to certain phrases or images.
Some people favour a writing medium, I've been writing pretty much exclusively on my notes app for the past three years, do you have a preference? What's your writing space like, if you have a single one?
In my creative writing workshop we joke about the idea of abandoned sentences living together somewhere like in the notes on your phone, which is also my preferred place to compose as ideas come to me. However, I do also like the good old fashioned way of paper and pen once it comes to pulling the ideas together.
I have no specific writing space! Anywhere and everywhere is fair game.
What aspects of poetry do you focus in your workshops?
My writing workshops are aimed at liberating people from self-doubt and stagnation and supporting them to be playful again. My desire is that people will delight in the writing process and be able to put down self-judgement to incorporate it into their lives as an enriching and life affirming practice. I thoroughly enjoy helping people to access their voice to share their words onstage or at an open mic, to find the universal within the personal, to be specific and adventurous in their language, to take risks with their metaphors and avoid clichés and to communicate boldly.
What techniques do you use in your workshops? Are there any exercises you particularly like?
I really love writing exercises that involve being specific, things that prompt memory and detail. I also think it's really useful to write from different perspectives, yourself as a child for example, or as a season or as an object! I think it liberates you from old patterns and allows fresh approaches where new and unusual things can emerge.
What's the best advice you'd give to a new writer. Is it any different to advice you'd give to an established writer?
The advice I would give to all writers is just to commit to a writing practice. I would suggest finding a way to love the process, to just enjoy it and find the fun and joy in it, to allow it to be cathartic and weave it into everyday life.
Naomi will be running two workshops at Medway River Lit.
'Adventures in Time and Space' writing workshop - Monday 5 June, 11am-1pm, Rochester Cathedral. Booking will open in May.
A unique and special experience to participate in a creative writing workshop seated at the 5,000 year old Fenland Black Oak table held within Rochester Cathedral! This will be a truly enchanting inter-disciplinary exploration of time and passage, and how objects and materials retain and tell those stories. Open to all abilities of writing, we will consider how writing is, also, a form of preservation and the way we use our imagination can be a way of celebrating parts of the past and creating the future!
‘Performing your poetry with play’ workshop - Wednesday 7 June, 4-6pm, St Margaret's Church, Rainham. No booking required.
A lively and engaging workshop where people will learn how to harness vulnerability and individuality to perform boldly onstage. It will be relaxed and fun with writing exercises and teaching (so do bring pen and paper!) Hélène Cixous implies when we follow the impulse to create, to write, we 'resist death (and) make trouble'. This workshop will be about learning to approach writing and performance with playfulness. Tips on using the microphone.
Both workshops are free to attend.
Booking for workshops will open in May, when the full festival programme is launched.