A response to DCA Thomson in our galleries

13 February 2017

For each exhibition in our galleries we run an event called (((echo))). It's an evening of creativity where artists and writers can present their creative responses to the work on show. Leading up to the event we ask for people to submit their work to us: they can be anything from artwork, to dance, spoken word and poetry. Unfortunately our latest (((echo))) had to be cancelled, but we caught up with Gavin Cameron, who submitted a poem for the event, to hear more about his inspiration and why he likes to take part. 

Hello Gavin, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your interest in poetry?

I'm not a lifelong creative writer. I began with prose in 2010, just as I turned 27. I hadn't penned a story since high school, but I was attracted by the challenge of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) to draft a novel in 30 days. I completed the challenge and I enjoyed the experience so much that I joined a writing group where I produced short stories. Three years later, I began to write poems for the first time and became more comfortable showing these to people. Poetry has now become my main form of expression.

"poetry is the ideal form for exploring thoughts and feelings without necessarily using the narrative structure that a story demands"

Since 2010, my poems and stories have been published in Scotland and other English-speaking countries. I now lead the Dundee & Angus region for NaNoWriMo, run the monthly spoken-word night Hotchpotch, and I graduated in 2016 with an MLitt Writing Practice and Study from the University of Dundee.

Probably every author or poet is asked, "What do you write about?" I find it difficult to answer this question. To me, poetry is the ideal form for exploring thoughts and feelings without necessarily using the narrative structure that a story demands. The subject matter will therefore be influenced by my preoccupations at the time I write each piece. As such, I have pieces that deal with subjects like gender and mental health, along with lighter styles such as triolets and clerihews.

What was it in our exhibition that inspired you to write this poem?

I'd started Surprise Attack in 2015 while in an unusually low mood. I have no mental health issues, though I have friends who do and I felt I had a glimpse into their worlds rather than looking in from the outside. However, I wasn't satisfied with the form of the piece no matter how much it was changed.

On seeing the DCA Thomson exhibition, I was taken by the Craig Coulthard work. I enjoyed the way in which he manipulates and subverts the Commando strip to discuss PTSD and Trauma Risk Management, placing motherly care and support into a traditionally macho environment. I was reminded of Surprise Attack and was inspired to work on it again – this time I was pleased with the result.

Have you taken part in (((echo))) before?

I've taken part in most (((echo))) events since 2015. Just as actors use improv to enhance their skills, I believe writers can benefit from the same technique. As often as possible, I attend classes where I'm given five to 10 minutes to write a passage or a verse with a certain theme.

""I find (((echo))) gives me a prompt and a deadline";

Similarly, I find (((echo))) gives me a prompt and a deadline. I approach my response by taking a theme from the exhibition and applying it to my own work. For the Jim Campbell exhibition, I told a story using only single-word sentences to reflect his minimalist style; for the Roman Signer exhibition and his destructive approach, I performed a site-specific monologue that culminated in smashing a cup on the floor. One of the few occasions I've attempted visual art was a response to the work of Hideyuki Katsumata where I attached googly eyes to a metal basket to represent surveillance, as suggested by his use of the eye motif.

Thanks for chatting to us Gavin. You can have a read of Gavin's poem, Surprise Attack, below. Our next (((echo))) event will take place on Thu 18 May for MARK WALLINGER MARK. Visit our website for more details on how to apply to take part.

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