courses & workshops

Blaze: A Poetry Course Inspired by Bridget Riley

Part of Bridget Riley

In a five-week poetry course inspired by the work of Bridget Riley, explore colour, movement and light within language.

Deepen your relationship to visual art to inspire new directions for your writing in a course led by poet Rachel Long. Learn how to create compositions of sensation and situation.

As well as drawing inspiration from Riley, read the works of poets including Gertrude Stein, Ocean Vuong, Terrance Hayes and Kei Miller to study how they each create new dimensions within their work. In turn, experiment and explore how to create new dimensions for ours.

The course includes a guided tour and research visits to Hayward Gallery.

Rachel Long is a poet and the founder of Octavia: Poetry Collective for Women of Colour, which is housed here at Southbank Centre. She is co-tutor on the Barbican Young Poets programme and Poetry Fellow of University of Hertfordshire.

Course overview
Session 1: Style Influencers
Among other painters who have influenced Riley, French artist Georges Seurat has been of special importance.

‘What I learned from Seurat comes up in different guises, again and again, and one could talk about every later painting of mine in terms of those insights.’ (Bridget Riley, 2015)

In this first week, enjoy a guided gallery tour followed by a cartographic discussion in which we map our style influencers: Who/what has been vital to the development of our own voice – within poetry and wider? Write in response to a series of exercises concerning colour, landscape and language.

Session 2: Making Waves
‘This basis of my painting is this: that in each of them a particular situation is stated. Certain elements within that situation remain constant. Others precipitate the destruction of themselves by themselves.’ (Bridget Riley, 1965)

This week we study shape and movement. How can the poem maintain structure but move? How can the movement of the poem create structure? Read poems by Terrance Hayes, Kim Addonizio and Lucia Perillo, and write in response.

Session 3: Curves & Continuum
Continuum is the only three-dimensional work Riley ever made. She later reflected that it was ‘too literal, since the viewer found themselves actually “in” the work… all I wanted was visual absorption.’

Further the study of shape and movement, continuing into depth, dimension and perception of language to create a particular sensation, e.g. tenderness, claustrophobia, confusion. Translate Riley’s juxtaposed compositions into poems which explore proximity.

Session 4: Light
‘I don’t paint light. I present a colour situation which releases light as you look at it.’ (Bridget Riley, 1972)

Riley found that colour is ‘inherently unstable and wholly relative’ – like language. This week, learn to build poems which release light even when they contain ‘darkness’ or subjects that are not as easy to look upon. Read the work of Kei Miller and Ocean Vuong to learn how they use tone and shade as a technique.

Please note there is a break between weeks 4 and 5.

Session 5: Revisiting
‘In all my work – right from the beginning – each step I take develops out of what went before,’ (Bridget Riley, 2017)

In our fifth and final week of the course, look back on all we have have written and achieved throughout. One half of the session is dedicated to editing and redrafting, and the other half is a private group sharing of our work in Hayward Gallery, against the works of Riley we were inspired by.

Dates & times

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Hayward Gallery


£90 for five-session course
Booking fee: £3.00 (Members £0.00)
£90 for five-session course


25% off (limited availability)
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need to know

By purchasing a ticket you agree to be contacted by Southbank Centre on email in relation to this course.

All five sessions are included in this ticket. We strongly recommend that participants make sure they are available for all five sessions of the course, but at a minimum attend four.

A limited number of free bursary places are available for people who would otherwise not be able to access this course due to financial circumstances. For more information and to apply please email with the name of the course in the subject. The deadline for applications is Monday 21 October 2019.

Southbank Centre takes a strong view on secondary ticketing. We require the lead booker to attend (photo ID may be requested). Tickets can only be resold by Southbank Centre or one of its authorised agents.

Event information
This course is open to poets of all ages and abilities. A willingness to learn with and from other participants with varied levels of experience is essential.

The course takes place on the following dates and times:
Mon 11 Nov, 7pm – 9pm
Mon 18 Nov, 7pm – 9pm
Mon 25 Nov, 7pm – 9pm
Mon 9 Dec, 7pm – 9pm
Mon 16 Dec, 7pm – 9pm
*Please note, there is no session on Mon 2 Dec.

Participants meet in Hayward Gallery Foyer for the first session of the course. Please bring a notebook and something to write with.

Course sessions will take place in Hayward Gallery and Dan Graham Waterloo Sunset Pavilion, Hayward Gallery.

Access information
If you are a BSL user interested in this course, please get in touch with us at to confirm this provision.

To join our free Access Scheme, call our Ticket Office on 020 3879 9555 or email
Find out more about our Access Scheme