Tuesday, 22 April 2014


Art can be about dialogue and art can take the form of dialogue. The online Oxford Dictionary defines dialogue as a discussion between two or more people which is often directed towards exploring a particular subject or resolving a problem. In many ways, negotiation goes a step further by suggesting the focus is to reach agreement. Community arts usually are based on the premise of dialogue, but how such dialogue unfolds is rarely elaborated on. In her PhD research Chu Yuan conceptualised negotiation as a process of engagement which brings new understandings for both the artist and those engaged with. In this way, negotiation can be seen as a process of actively getting to know the world, others and what is unique about one’s own position in it.

Such dialogue and negotiation can be mediated through poetry. In the act of publishing a poem, the poet opens up an opportunity for communication with the reader. Take Julian Dobson’s poem For Tony Benn. Reading this poem one may find oneself soul searching – what do I know about Tony Benn, what were his views, did I agree, how will I remember him? Yet, this poem draws attention to something more. Written just after the death of this politician, the poem positions itself firmly in a specific society and time. Chu Yuan would say that through engagement with the poem the reader becomes more aware of the world he lives in and his or her relation to it.

The above observations have informed Sharing at the Shoreline. Yet, this project will take this idea of poetry as dialogue a step further by deliberately creating spaces in which this dialogue can take place face-to-face and enables this conversation to be multi-directional. The Sharing at the Shoreline workshops will thus provide space for those attending to share stories and experiences, personal or conjured up by the poems. Naturally, these conversations will resonate in subsequent poems and, as a result, this dialogue will transcend individual workshops by generating dialogue between the different groups of people I meet on the way. The central element in Sharing at the Shoreline is the dialogue I create through my poetry and readings - between myself and participants and between different groups of participants.

The next Sharing at the Shoreline workshop will take place on Saturday 26 April at 2 pm at the Tolbooth Museum in Stonehaven. Participation is free and prior registration is not required. For more information, please email myself at petravergunst@hotmail.com.

Copyright text and image Petra Vergunst