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Poetry for Better Futures

Mariah Whelan, Creative Fellow, IAS, led an exhibition of poems, a panel discussion and a 3-day short course free to students.

Lead Speaker: Mariah Whelan, Creative Fellow, IAS

Mariah is a poet, teacher and interdisciplinary researcher. Her first book, the love i do to you, was shortlisted for The Poetry Book Awards and won the AM Heath Prize.

Mariah’s research explores the intersection of creative and academic practice. Her poems, art installations and teaching positive creativity as tool for producing dynamic forms of knowledge, exploring the embodied experience of research and ethical decision making.

Open Event - Exhibition of poems and panel discussion

From May 2021

Mariah Whelan, Creative Fellow, IAS, led an exhibition of poems followed by a roundtable panel discussion with the following speakers:

The exhibition of poems consisted of live performances, pre-recorded videos and a showcase of poem objects and texts. It was followed by a roundtable panel discussion which explored what poetry can bring to conventional academic practice. 

Short Course - Poetry for Better Futures

Lead speaker: Mariah Whelan, Creative Fellow, IAS

From May 2021

What happens when we approach the issues and subjects we care about through creative methodologies? Can we mobilise poetry as a tool for gaining new perspectives and creating change? In this three-day workshop series, we used poetry as a tool to reflect on our individual and collective experiences during the pandemic and to imagine the kinds of futures we wanted for ourselves and our communities going forward. 

Led by experimental poet Dr Mariah Whelan, workshop participants were guided through a series of sessions that showed attendees how to get started with writing poetry and how to use innovative forms to shape their ideas. Course attendees were guided through a series of exercises, conversations and experiments to produce a brand-new poem of their own. These poems took the form of traditional text-based pieces, we will also experimented with image, performance and object-based writing strategies. The workshops will culminated in a multi-media live reading followed by a roundtable panel discussion that exploring what poetry can bring to traditional academic methods.

Workshop 1:

Getting Started and Shaping Your Ideas Workshop 1 were divided into x 2 1.5-hour sessions. In the first session focussed on translating our initial ideas, thoughts and emotions into images and text. To do so, we explored creative reading strategies, methods for generating new ideas and exercises for connecting to the body and breath as sites of knowledge and meaning. In the second part of the session, we concentrated on shaping our ideas by experimenting with different formal strategies including experimentation with text, images and objects.

Workshop II:

Bringing Your Poem to Life - here we concentrated on developing attendees’ poems into fully realised pieces ready for exhibition/performance. Attendees focussed on taking their poem through the editorial process by engaging in a series of revision exercises, reflective writing and collaborative conversations with their peers. By the end of the session, students settled on the final form of their poem (a performance, object, image or text-based piece), how it would be exhibited online and began to work on their final draft.

One-to-one supervisions with Dr Mariah Whelan:

These final sessions supported students to put the finishing touches to their poem pieces. Tailored to each student, the sessions focussed on the exhibition, and where students might like to go next with their poetry writing practice.


This virtual gallery showcases poems created by students as part of the ‘Poetry for Better Futures’ 3-day short course, offered by UCL as part of their ‘Back to the Future’ programme.

The gallery features poem objects, poetry written using collage methods and page poems, as well as video/performance pieces.

Student Testimonials

Deepali Foster 

Working with Mariah on the 'Poetry For Better Futures' course was riveting. Despite being an English student, and an avid reader of contemporary poetry in particular, I had never attempted to write any poetry of my own. The notion was tempting, but always felt somewhat daunting -- where would I even start? Mariah’s course was an ideal way to spur my writing endeavours. It was a supportive and generative space to explore my creative interests and I finished it feeling inspired and equipped to continue studying the craft independently. Mariah provided practical advice about poem-making, such as how to carve out a regular writing time during your weekly routine, and shared effective ways of editing (note to self: go easy with ‘ing’ words!). She was also extremely warm and encouraging, teaching us to strategically block out our inner critic at the start of the process and to trust our own ideas. It was fascinating listening to other poets’ work and learning about what interests my peers, and our discussion about the relationship between creative and critical pursuits is one that I continue to contemplate. Having a 1:1 conversation with Mariah about writing was an incredible opportunity to receive tailored advice. The experience was enriching and invigorating, and at the end of our course I felt proud to have pushed myself out of my comfort zone, reaping the rewards of a new poem on the page. 

Aleks Jagielski 

During the poetry workshop sessions with Dr Mariah Whelan, we were introduced to several writing exercises to help get ideas flowing. We considered how our poems can be displayed using different formal strategies. I had the chance to experiment with different methods of generating ideas, writing, and displaying poetry. Considering non-traditional poem formats (such as the poem object which drew me in the most) helped me expand the way I think about my own poetic practice. 

Both the workshop and the one-on-one supervision sessions with Dr Whelan helped me reflect on my writing and improve it, but also appreciate the therapeutic advantages that poetry writing has for me. Thanks to the workshop I also started thinking about what poetry writing can bring to academic practice, for example as a way of generating ideas or a means of understanding and communicating complex ideas and relationships. I have already incorporated some of the practices shared by Dr Whelan into my writing. I am very glad I had the opportunity to take part in this workshop and would love to see UCL organise more workshops like this in the future