Where Do I Come From? Arts Gym try out spoken word poetry

Posted on 13 March 2020

Following their fascinating session on the process of co-directing plays with our 2021 Co-Artistic Director Balisha Karra and her regular collaborator Fin Townsend, our Arts Gym: Reaching Out group recently had the chance to learn about spoken word poetry from poet Tarik Ross-Cameron. Arts Gym blogger Margaret Emerton returns to tell us more.

This year the Arts Gymnasium: Reaching Out participants have been fortunate to welcome professionals from the world of theatre into our sessions to lead a variety of workshops. Tarik Ross-Cameron is one of those professionals. He is a poet, performer, voice artist, facilitator and mentor, whose workshop with us was focused on spoken word poetry.

Poetry: the words learned and recited without thought or meaning in the school room or the beauty in the flow of our own creative writing.

Words, like “music” and “dance”, have their own rhythm. One word we all know is our own name and, in the workshop, we became aware of how we say that word with many different rhythms, emotions or light and shade.

After sharing a few simple facts of our lives with a partner from the group, we all put together simple poems about each other; not only learning to write a poem, but also getting to know each other better in the process.

We then listened to a poem called “I Come From”, written by a migrant worker. The poet was looking back to his roots, his homeland and that of his forefathers. As we listened, we could hear the rhythm and emotions. Was it the rhythm of native drums or his heartbeat? What feelings does that phrase, “I come from”, evoke in us? For some participants, the words came easily. There were others who struggled, needing time and space.

What we take away from our workshops is often replayed days and even weeks later and suddenly it all makes sense.

The work that has come from this workshop has been amazing. For some it was: “the struggle of the early years” or “the beauty of childhood and how that has influenced who we are today”.

Words, whether written, read or spoken, are the backbone of theatre. So we continue to learn; not only about the world of theatre, but about ourselves as well.

With each workshop, each session, we have a better understanding of theatre: we see a play through different eyes and our own work becomes more meaningful. We can bring ourselves to the sessions and become a different character within it.

Here are three examples of poems that came out of the group workshop.

Ron’s poem


My father was Polish and came to the UK in 1947 as a refugee after serving in the British Army. During the war he had suffered imprisonment both by the Soviet Russians and Nazi Germans. Like many Polish people who came here he was afraid to return to his homeland during communism. My mother’s family came to Coventry from the Rhondda Valley in Wales. They left their homeland in the mid-1930’s where mines were closing and welfare was almost unknown, to seek work. After coming to Coventry my Grandfather worked at Keresley Colliery as did my Father. These past lives are the inspiration for this poem.

I Come From

I come from war and poverty.
I come from a chaotic past that shaped the world.
From suffering and loss I have grown.
From suffering and loss untold I have been shaped.
I come from mixed blood and cultures.
I come from nowhere and rootlessness.
I come from the emptiness of a lost family.
I come from determination and strength.
I come from the will to go where others will not.
I go into the unknown afraid but controlled,
Fears icy hand melted by the memory of a Father gentle but strong, poor but kind.
An example to all, a lighthouse on the sea of human emotion and experience.
From these chaotic origins I have learnt to value friends.
True friendship is a treasure above all others that I have amassed.
I am not alone.

By Ron

Bernie’s poem

I come from shenanigans and jigs
Foot tapping and song
Dancing and singing through my life
I come from a home without love
The smell of whiskey tobacco and shouts
I come from lilac stripe wallpaper and Magicote paint
I come from parties and Dickens
I come from literature quoted in lines
I come from fear and suppression
I come from an evil mother
I come from dreams and my life
I come from design and wonderful colours
I come to love and be loved
I come to share laugh and learn
I have come
To be ME

By Bernie

Joy’s poem

I come from bombsite playgrounds
I come from learning to swim in the Anker
I come from chilblain fingers and toes and fog
I come from hours in the library
I come from learning times tables and 11 plus exam
I come from new girl in the too big uniform
I come from doing paper rounds and Saturday in the shoe shop
I come from dancing, spreading my wings
I come from travelling, eating new foods
I come from living among strangers
I come from loving, family, my dear children
I come from cooking, gardening, playing
I come from learning how to succeed and fail

By Joy

Thanks to Tarik Ross-Cameron for sharing his expertise with the Arts Gym group. Find out more about Tarik and his work on his website.