This game provides a starting point for writing about everyday urban
experience. The original version used a four-foot high tower-block whose
windows contained pictures on hinged flaps. Players swung a demolition-
ball from a crane to hit a window and collect its picture. As in subsequent
versions, described below, the players collected three pictures of street or
interior scenes and were invited to relate these to each other and to their
Although the range of pictures is limited, the range of poems is not, partly
because everyone has their own experiences and will interpret images
differently but mostly because we have always used the pictures as starting
points for a discussion that will discover the true subject for the poem, the
poem the player is interested in writing. Players are not obliged to link the
pictures and are often encouraged to choose one, either because they
recognise the situation or simply prefer that picture.
The pictures were collected largely by browsing through magazines and
then photo-copied, which simplifies the power of the image itself. They show
scenes common to all urban areas, and people are in most of them, shown
simply on the street, sitting in a room, as part of a crowd, rather than in
stereotypic activities, so that players can decide how to interpret them in
the light of their own experiences.
The players are invited to think of connections between one or more of the
pictures and their own life and neighbourhood, fixing on a particular place
and incident. Then, remembering and noting that experience in its
landscape, with the smells, conversations, feelings; the sense of being
there; will provide the material to shape and reveal the concern and nature
of the poem.
On the earliest workshops the players wrote their poem on models of
buildings and other structures, roads, vehicles and people - to create a city
of poems. A huge range of `waste' materials was used, and the poems were
displayed in many inventive ways. Simpler displays have used large wall-
friezes utilising collage and mural techniques.
City of Poems has been widely used over the last decade and some simpler
versions have been invented for group work. In the one provided, players
are given a map with numbered roundabouts and are invited to plot a route
that passes through three of these points. The numbers on the roundabouts
relate to pictures which are passed out as before. The pictures are not
provided, they should be relatively easy to collect as indicated above. It
will be useful to have more pictures than roundabouts, or vary the
number/picture relationships, if one route becomes too well-used.
Another version involves inviting players to simply describe what is in the
pictures, looking for something - an object, an atmosphere - to link them
together. Alternatively they can be given just one picture at random and be
asked to decide what they think is happening, how it feels, smells etc.,
perhaps what will happen next. Both these later versions can produce
imaginative story-lines and sympathetic descriptions - what is "made-up" is
influenced by our own experiences and feelings - but some players will be
tempted to be banal without the spur of personal identification.