When it comes to hard sells, we are the hardest of them all – how do we get students interested in poetry?
Glasgow-based performance poet Imogen Stirling has been on this assignment in rural South West Scotland for the past year.
She admitted there had been an element of subterfuge to her work in and around Wigtown.
“I’ve learned that you can never use the word poetry because it immediately turns people off,” she said.
“And, I mean, quite rightly to be honest, I had no interest in poetry when I was in school and I didn’t resonate at all with the way it was taught to me. .
“So it took me a long time after I got into poetry in school to come back to it because I really didn’t think it was for me.”
However, there are ways to get it through.
“I think it’s more about bringing out the performative elements and the storytelling elements,” she said.
“We are really lucky because there are so many exciting performance poets out there right now.
“There are so many artists who mix poetry and rap, which is a much more accessible art form, I think.”
She said she tried to showcase some of this work and show students how the spoken word could be used to talk about things that were important to them rather than ending up in “a dusty book on a shelf”.
“I think it’s just about feeling comfortable in your own expression,” she added.
School visits are part of his work in the area, alongside setting up the Wigtownshire Young Writers Development Scheme, which helps teenagers aged 14 to 18.
“We get together once a month, to work together and help develop their skills as writers,” she said.
“It’s as much about building skills as it is about socializing with other writers and seeing what a career in writing might look like.”
Her own journey into performative poetry was sidetracked after studying theater and literature.
“I had worked abroad as a musician for a few years, came back to Glasgow and discovered that there was a very rich poetic performance scene, which had never been there to my knowledge when I was studying here,” she said.
“I fell into that and kind of went to a lot of open mic parties and that kind of stuff here, and then I wrote a show for the Fringe in 2018 and it’s been really good since.”
This brought her to the Wigtown Book Festival this year to perform Love The Sinner which she describes as “a modern retelling of the stories of the Seven Deadly Sins set as characters in a contemporary Scottish cityscape”.
Who knows, in the future, maybe some of his current students will be inspired to follow in his footsteps.