EVENTS Finger clicking good poetry

When I signed up to performance poet Jasmine Gardosi’s Poetry Masterclass, I was looking for ideas and inspiration. I got this in spades, along with heaps of new knowledge about poetry and social media, reports Susan Sandercock.

How about this from Jasmine? ‘You could stand on stage and fart and it would be considered a poem in the right context.’

This is what I needed to hear: originality; a fresh perspective; a step away from the traditional to gain an understanding of what draws young readers to poetry in the age of social media.

Jasmine delivering her Poetry Masterclass.

This idea of stepping away from the conventional was taken one step further with the introductory quiz ‘Shakespeare or hip hop?’ where lines of text appeared onscreen and we had to pick an answer. Our mixed replies spoke for themselves. Poetry doesn’t have to be an elitist thing; we must eliminate this idea of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art.

How is the experience of ‘reading’ poetry changing in this age of social media when new methods of performing and sharing it make it so much more accessible?

‘When it comes to poetry, performance becomes a viable option again because there’s the technology to promote it,’ Jasmine said. Our bookshelves are the young person’s YouTube videos. As well as interactive informative sessions about where poetry sits in the internet-obsessed age, Jasmine’s Masterclass featured snippets of performance poetry from young people’s ‘hangouts’ – YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.

Jasmine treated us to a performance of one of her poems. ‘If an audience clicks their fingers it means they like what they hear,’ she said. We clicked along enthusiastically, caught up in her contemporary tale of the effects of bullying.

We learned how social media and its formats have encouraged writers to be ever more creative with their form. Twitter’s tiny character limit means every word, and its positioning, counts. Instagram’s square layout and its emphasis on the aesthetic mean line breaks, font and colour are ever more important. The performance poetry on YouTube - recorded from live festivals or simply read into a camera - and Instagram and Twitter’s bonsai formats mean content can be related to form more than ever.

Power of Instagram: the best-selling self-published
collection began life as instapoetry.

We were shown this by a performance poet’s shuddering, juddering account of living with OCD. More than ever, people are free to write about what really matters to them – politics, relationships, body image, mental health – as seen in a young woman’s account of travelling to the UK from Ireland for an abortion, and the telling title of Suli Breaks’s Why I Hate School But Love Education. Tie into this the sheer volume of information online and the ease with which the user can scroll on, grabbing the ‘reader’ has never been so important.

There is value in using the approach that works for poetry to help audiences engage more with our own work, whatever it is we are writing. ‘Poetry helps you focus on the hook of your piece,’ Jasmine said. ‘You can tease examples from your book. Sharing a few lines of your longer project on social media can be a more creative way of promoting yourself than overt self-promotion.’

Other helpful tips were to try out new approaches to free writing, playing with words and manipulating clichés to see where they might lead. My favourite parts of the workshop included our last free writing exercise, based around an extended metaphor we each created. Having spent the last few months focused on a big writing project, I really enjoyed creating a new short piece, and I was pleased with the positive feedback I received.

Another favourite exercise was the last one, where we designed an Instagram square containing lines from our longer projects to ‘sell’ our book to a young audience. My square is pinned to the corkboard in my study as I write this. I gained so much from the workshop: knowledge of the existing poetry landscape and what poetry means to young people, plus ideas on how to promote my teen novel in a creative way.

Group click: SCBWIs with Jasmine Gardosi.

But, most importantly, I’d give this poetry workshop plenty of finger clicks for rebooting my creativity.

*All photos credit: Susan Sandercock


Susan’s short story Sea Canaries is included in Tony Bradman’s acclaimed anthology, Under the Weather, she has been shortlisted in Undiscovered Voices and taken part in The Hook. She is a media lecturer in a sixth form college near Southend, which is a constant source of inspiration for her writing. Her other hobbies include baking; she once made 150 cupcakes in one week. 
Find Susan on Twitter.


Fran Price is Events Editor for Words and Pictures, the online magazine of SCBWI-BI. Contact her at

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