Noel Williams: Exploding Poetry


This exhibition entitled “Exploding Poetry” is one of the key outcomes of Noel’s Residency at Bank Street Arts. It is a considerable achievement for the Centre as it illustrates the kind of work, and an approach to producing such work, that we hope will define what we are and do. The project is funded by Arts Council England but Bank Street Arts is not. Our approach to funding is to support artists in applications and offer help in kind but not be bound in any way by such funding. 

Noel’s approach throughout has been one of collaboration both inside and outside the Centre. As well as opening up his work to collaboration through workshops and open calls involving writers from all over the UK, Noel has also worked with musicians and artists in a very focused way to produce new and original work specifically for this exhibition.

Noel has a new blog to document the whole project, updated daily, at:

The exhibition itself takes some of the ideas from this project, and brings them together in a five room piece. The rooms are:

– Garden of Stones: a beautiful piece of an evolving “Garden” using words from my texts created by visual artist Katherine Johnson

– the audio installation, as yet untitled: Michael Harding and I have created an audio-visual piece on women and war which uses four simultaneous DVDs. Although some of the texts are mine, fifty other writers have contributed and forty women have read these texts for inclusion.

– the Poetry Cafe – a place to lounge about, drink a coffee, read poems off the walls contributed by dozens of other writers, perhaps write something yourself, play with a few poetry objects, generally think about what makes a poem a poem

– the ghost office – here is where the poet should be working. Sometimes you’ll find me, and we can work together on your project or mine, or just chat about the pieces. Whether I’m there or not, you’ll find works in progress, poems you can contribute to, and interactive digital poems that you can change or which write themselves.

– the hall. The centre room, linking the other four, this is an austere hall again presented by Katherine on the theme of women and war.

John Clark who runs Bank Street and Ben Womack who is curating this exhibition have been major influences on how it’s shaped up.

There’ll be several poetry events during the life of the exhibition. First is an opportunity for you to include your own work: an invitation to contribute a poem on writing poetry which will be displayed in the Cafe.

Events should include: a private view, a closing evening of readings by the Tuesday Poets, a masterclass of readings from poets on Hallam University’s MA Writing, and an open mike evening.

Alan Halsey’s “Memory Screen”, another interesting poetry project, will be running alongside mine, making for a very rich environment for poets. I’m told that for two of the four weeks we’ll also have a special Caribbean kitchen offering food in the cafe.

So, drop in. Give it a whirl. I think you may find the audio piece moving at times – it has surprised me how powerful it can be, the actual experience quite different from what I might have imagined. Katherine’s visual responses to my work might be a bit challenging for some people, but they’re also subtle and evocative, and a walk through the Garden of Stones will mean that you’re writing some of the work as you view it.

I’d like as many people as possible to come along and write something, read something, play about with bits of poetry. Even if you’re not a poet yourself, come along and be a poet for twenty minutes, or an hour or an afternoon. And, if you want to use the opportunity to sit in peace yourself and simply write; or to work with me on your own work (a free workshop) or help with mine, you can drop in and hope, or contact me beforehand and we’ll arrange to meet.

A pdf with further details produced during the Residency can be found here.

A review of the exhibition published online at can be viewed here.