Clown Congress was an event held in Bristol and online in October 2023, with the theme: Clowns & Identity: Exploring Difference in Clowning.
Around 50 clowns from Bristol, UK and internationally gathered for 3 days of workshops, discussions and big ideas. I attended as the congress Poet-in-Residence, creating poems from participant comments, collaborative sessions and my thoughts and feelings as a poet in the space.
Participants told me that my poems were “a very helpful way to help remember and digest what had gone on during the days.”
Ironically, two of the poems I made during the congress have been lost – clown ephemera – a lesson in letting go and playing the flop. They were really good ones too! I rescued a snippet from one of them which you’ll see below, and I have notes for the other one but I’ll never be able to make it again as good as it was in the moment…
Big thanks to Hatty Ashton for the photos.
When I’m with the unknown – a snippet of a lost poem Incorporating post-it comments from participants at one of Holly Stoppit's Creative Clarity sessions. The actual poem from the day has been lost - clown ephemera! when I’m with the unknown I feel flutters through my middle I dissolve, I reform I fizz dissolve and fizz forget that the ground is there sometimes I speak my truth
Identity Collaborative poem exploring identity created during an open space session I come from a dirty town I didn’t feel I belonged in Women who stood on mountains and sang into the clouds Their exposed roots reaching into its edges I sit cross-legged, listening well to A spiritual goddess, singing in tongues without care Whose breath cleared the clouds so the sun shone Who cackles and mixes her cauldron well A view from the top of men with ropes clambering up A people of mental health mish mash A father who was sent away to school Suicidal grandfather and energetic aunts Parents who did not hug I want to say I don’t understand I want to say you are not here but I am I want to say I feel lost so much of the time I’ll ask the wise woman in a caravan who looks out to the sea With the sea swimming, shifting shape creatures who growl and scream and shout My brother and his friends swim in the candlelight I come from the north, the hills and the moors A black ford focus with one door that doesn’t open A house on the corner of the street with a pub at the top A dirty town I didn’t feel I belonged in
What happens when I bring my needs into the play? Incorporating post-it comments from participants at one of Holly Stoppit's Creative Clarity sessions. When I ask for my needs to be met in play it’s selfish and terrifying serious and shameful difficult, uncomfortable I feel like I will cry. What if my needs do not get met what if I get hurt or lose my head? In the asking is vulnerability playful neediness, needy playfulness like a jellyfish playing an accordion it touches many things frustration, validation, relaxation expression, expulsion, explosion freedom, love, connection comfort and refreshment trust, joy and reflection If my needs are met in play we touch bellies, which is fun we look in the mirror make ugly faces, stick out our tongues I become a two-headed snake – enabled “to play or not to play” I play and they receive I get the chance to meet their needs I get a glimpse into the others’ worlds I feel included, I feel held * (poem from a player) I didn’t know what I needed then I looked and it was there in the soup of group dynamics or underneath my chair how quiet and shy she is but she is there * When my needs are met in play with honesty and value I feel healthily congruent feeling everything more witnessed and witnessing empowered and empowering growing like life itself when my needs are met in play I find peace and what I didn’t know I needed - it’s wonderful - great things When I bring my needs into the play I really get to play I am satisfied and my needs are met
Sunday 29 October @FridayIsPoetsDay we came from somewhere and come together feeling things realistic with this precious gift this circle with the needs and numbness the flight, the fright, the freeze the yes, the no the how do we do this? I’ve been collecting insights moments with people the comfort principles and I want to tell you I am doing OK
Monday 30 October @FridayIsPoetsDay whistling through pen tops it’s a performance of me not run of the mill rich with liminality