The Making of ‘Liberty’

The performance poem ‘Liberty’ took shape over a period of several weeks through a dedicated workshop held in the English Department at UWC.  We began by looking at forms of political rhetoric, gradually progressing to a series of writing prompts, then an exploration of the word ‘liberty’ and its associations in English, Xhosa and Afrikaans. A workshop exploring metaphor added new layers of poetic response to this ‘raw material’ which was transferred to slips of paper to enable table-top assembly and editing.

Each section of the poem was assembled by a separate team of participants, then brought together and the sections ordered until the whole text was extant. That text was then fixed by gluing it to sheets of paper and the poem typed out to undergo further editing and refinement.

The marked up script for the poem ‘Liberty’ is available here to read as a PDF.

Workshop member, Delia Meyer, then led a final performance workshop. In preparation, the text of the poem was marked up with expression marks and distributed between multiple voices, like a script or musical score. Rehearsals developed the poem further through some improvised elements and a final version of the poem was performed and recorded. Just as there were many possible ways to assemble the original raw material into poetic form, so there were many possibilities for this choral treatment. We wanted to preserve a sense of spontaneity in our approach, so the rehearsal and performance of the poem were achieved in just an hour.

I’m indebted to the enthusiastic participation of Pozisa Zinja, Delia Meyer, Lisa Julie, 
Sindiwe Magona, Martha Qumbe Kerry Hammerton, Tyhlor Talliard, Kennan Pedro, 
Sarah Jane Seale and Michael Wessells.

Graham Mort

Click here to read the poem and listen to the recording.

SLIDESHOW: click first image to begin slideshow.