From: Miriam Valencia, The Southbank Centre   To: MARIO PETRUCCI
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 2010 16:35    Subject: RE: Southbank 'Poetry and Science' Workshops


The Royal Society/ Southbank Centre

‘See Further’ Poetry & Science Residency (Festival of Science & Arts)

Poetry and Science at Southbank Centre


This project was conceived to be about communication. We wanted those engaged with poetry and those engaged with science to communicate their enthusiasms to each other. We wanted scientists to discover the place of poetry and language in their scientific practice, and poets to recognise how scientific thought processes, and a deeper understanding of the world, can enrich poetry. We wanted the teachers involved to find ways of continuing that communication after the workshops finished, and we wanted their enthusiasm and cross-curricular confidence to be communicated to students.

I felt that this concentration on dialogue and communication was reflected in how we worked with Mario, and was key to the success of the project. When we started the conversation, Mario was very careful to ensure that he understood our aims for the project clearly. This process helped us to crystallise our own ideas, and, along with Mario’s thoughts and experience, made sure that the goals, process, and expected outcomes were clear to us all before the work itself was undertaken. This said, the way that Mario worked with me allowed for a good deal of flexibility, as we discussed progress regularly after each session, and agreed any changes to plans together, ensuring that we both felt comfortable with the way the sessions were progressing.  

Another feature of the way Mario worked was his ability to build confidence in participants. This was partly due to his capacity to make insightful comments on their writing which helped them identify strengths in it, but it was also about the design of the sessions, which was very enabling.  Initially, participants were led gently through exercises that Mario had prepared; gradually, they were taken to the point where they were designing their own writing prompts.

Finally, as well as participants gaining personal fulfilment and enjoyment from the workshops, Mario was very careful to ensure that each session included reflection on how the work we had done could be applied in the classroom. Everyone’s experience was drawn upon to explore how best to engage students with this cross-curricular approach to science and poetry. This part of the process was enhanced by the fact that some teachers used the workshop exercises with classes during the course of the project and were able to feed back those recent experiences.

The workshops with Mario enabled all involved to strike up a fascinating dialogue between science and poetry in ways that enriched our experiences - both of our own more familiar discipline (science or poetry), and of the one less familiar to us. I personally gained a huge amount from the workshops. I also found the experience of working with Mario to be excellent, and I have learned examples of good practice that will inform any future collaborations.


Miriam Valencia (Project Coordinator)