A few years ago I realised if I draw while I listen, it tames my frantic mind and lets the poets’ words reach me.
I have AHDH and I love poetry and drawing. My mind bounces all over the place when I create which is a joy for stringing together wild ideas, but my mind hardly ever stops and when I’m listening to poets perform sometimes my head gets so full of bees that I can’t focus at all on what someone’s saying. Sometimes it feels like they’re speaking another language and nothing they say can penetrate my head.
A few years ago I realised if I draw while I listen, it tames my frantic mind and lets the poets’ words reach me. What started as a coping mechanism has blossomed into a beautiful extension of my poetry world and my place in this bustling UK spoken word scene.
I’ve loved writing poetry since my teenage years in the ’90s and, during the most artistically inspired times in my life, I’ve often slipped into the habit of writing a poem a day. This includes when studying at Drama School (2004) when touring a rock opera of Hamlet around the north of Italy (2008) and when I studied physical theatre in Paris (2012).
All of my adult life I’ve worked as an actor, animating and writing poetry in my spare time. I never shared anything I wrote and had no idea that the spoken word scene even existed.
Then, in 2015, I wrote 2 poems I was really proud of: ‘Jedi on the Metro’, and ‘Cous Cous’. I was shocked to discover my home town of Swindon had not only a gorgeous poetry community but also a great poetry festival every year too. Here are some Swindon Poetry Festival sketches from that time. You can see these here:  .
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I jumped in feet first, and quickly took to sketching poets as I listened, challenging myself to capture a poet’s essence in the 3 minutes it took them to share their truths with the crowd.
As time went by I got more and more adventurous and eventually treated myself to an iPad Mini. I started animating poets in Flipaclip and Procreate as well, the aim still the same, to work fast, doodling and animating in a just a few minutes to capture the essence of the poet and their words.
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I’d love to see more poets exploring animation in their work, and a lot of people don’t realise how easy it is to start. Anyone with a smartphone and a finger can do it, with all sorts of free and cheap apps available. FlipaClip, folioscope, Procreate and Rough Animator are my favourites. I also recommend getting a stylus. They’re super cheap and you can even make one with a cotton bud and some tin foil (just like this via YouTube).
Something that always troubles me is that I know that if I draw then it will look like I’m not paying attention. I want to give the performer my full energy and encouragement, but if I don’t draw and instead just pretend to pay attention, I’ll look like a great audience member but I often won’t have a clue what they’ve said. I try to sit at the back for this reason.
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As well as acting in other people’s shows, I also produce and tour my own one-person theatre productions. In the past 6 years, poetry, animation and video projection have become some of my favourite things to play with onstage. My work was developing wonderfully. But in 2020 calamity happened. Lockdown; Covid. All theatres closed. Tours cancelled. No more work for who knows how long.
When arts organisations started desperately asking “does anyone have any digital skills?!” my hand shot straight up.
Suddenly there were whole new avenues of art-making opening themselves up to me. I took a 10-week online course in motion design with the School Of Motion and threw myself into all manner of animation, illustration and poetry commissions.
I made a stop motion poetry film about being trans, performed a 15 minute spoken word set interacting with hand drawn animations, and made the world’s first fully animated poetry slam, complete with hand-drawn audience and guest judges.
My favourite project so far is a poetry video called Duvet Days that I made for Kat Lyons’ play Dry Season which explores early onset menopause. The poem explores anxiety, a subject I’m also very familiar with, and, as well as being a delight to create, it also got accepted at the prestigious Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin.
Despite how much I’ve made I still feel like I’m at the dawn of my journey to figuring out how I want moving images and my writing to flow together. In early 2022, I finished a big tour of Too Pretty To Punch, my one-person show about trans solidarity, a show I’ve been touring since 2017. I decided to take a break from touring my own work while I create new things.
My current projects include writing a satirical young adult novel about a trans teenager who struggles through the apocalypse, an online animated sketch comedy series satirising the debates around trans issues, as well as slowly formulating ideas for my next touring spoken word show.
I’ve been running more and more workshops and mentoring sessions to help people add animation to their poetry and theatre productions and I look forward to seeing the fruits of these new styles of poetic expression. This feels like a time full of change and creative possibilities and I’m excited for what the future may bring, both for myself and for our community as a whole.
Edalia is a transgender spoken word artist, animator and theatremaker based in Norwich. Trained at Lecoq and Alra, her spoken word is full of energy and theatrical flair and her theatre combines comedy, live music and interactive projection mapping.
After 10 years as an actor, she started writing and producing her own work in 2014 with In The Surface Of A Bubble, about a world of dreams and until 2022 she toured Super Hamlet 64, a one-person show about videogames and Shakespeare and Too Pretty To Punch, about celebrating trans an non-binary people.
Since lockdown started she trained as an animator and motion designer with the School Of Motion and has produced several successful projects combining Animation and Poetry, working with the Young Vic, HOME, Harrogate Theatre, Theatre Royal Norwich and Lost in Translation Circus.
Projects in development include: an animated online comedy series about trans people, a book about a trans girl’s diaries during the apocalypse, and a new show combining spoken word and a trans barbershop quartet.
Connect with Edalia
Website: www.edaliaday.co.uk | Shows and books are available online at www.gumroad.com/edaliaday
Twitter : @edaliaday
Photo Credit: Colin Potsig
This blog entry is part of Behind The Words – our project to highlight all walks of life in the spoken word and poetry scene. There is no one way to be a poet. There is no right way to be a poet.