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Freelance Reflections #27

The third week of the Living Record Festival has come and gone, with nearly 10 tickets sold so far, and some kind words from Sally Proctor, the Community Director at Slung Low. I hope to see some more colourful pictures in the final week. Please listen to ‘Circles’ and send me your designs via @carminamasoliver on Instagram.

Last week was also my grandad’s funeral; it was and is surreal and sad, but the sun shined that day. I’ve been watching films like ‘Saint Frances’ and ‘The Book of Life’, and have felt exhausted and overwhelmed, trying to be kind to myself, but still not fully giving myself what I needed. I listened a lot to podcasts like ‘The Good Grief Podcast’ with Alex Di Cuffa, and Griefcast with Cariad Lloyd.

On Friday, I tried to be kind to myself, knowing I had She Grrrowls on Instagram Live in the evening. I took myself off for a walk to my local park to make the most of the sunny weather, and as my grandad also had a sweet tooth, having eaten some lemon curd biscuits in his honour on the day of the funeral, before She Grrrowls, I made myself a hot drink to have with some shortbread biscuits and a blackcurrant and apple pie.

I was glad I didn’t cancel She Grrrowls, as with nine acts on the open mic, it was a full house. I read a poem about Yorkshire that my grandad had written, and a poem I’d written for him as part of his eulogy. In speaking of death and grief, I’ve also shared one of my favourite books on sadness: Sad Book by Michael Rosen.

As I write now, there is a flurry of snow outside my windows, and I’m safely inside after a long walk to Greenwich yesterday, covering 19km. Any sun soon turned to cloud and then rain. Exhausted, I had an array of Korean dishes for dinner, and played the ‘7 Wonders’ board game a couple of times. It is the unbelievableness of the situation that allows me to enjoy these moments, but at other times I lean into the grief, allow myself to feel the shock and sadness of such unexpected loss.

Freelance Reflections #26

It’s the second week of Living Record Festival, and after just five ticket sales, I’m being reminded that it’s better than nothing, and to hold on to the reasons why we do this, why we create and put it out to the world. It’s not the number of connections, but the connections themselves. So, I’m holding on to this lovely comment I’ve been given permission to share from Jodie Adams.

I’ve reached out to family members, which has been encouraging. After over a decade in poetry, it gets harder to ask for support from friends and family. A part of you thinks, shouldn’t you have an audience by now? Shouldn’t you not need them anymore? These kinds of thoughts can lead to a bad spiral, so sometimes it’s best to just ask directly, appreciate those who give the time, and understand those who don’t.

So far, my maternal grandmother and one of my cousins have sent me pictures of how they listened. I love how my gran has put her margarita inside the circle as something she loves, and how both of them have created such a nice space to give themselves that 15-minutes to focus on listening and colouring.

When you buy the audio stream of Circles, for £5 as well as the audio and the Zoom Q&A, you get a copy of this black and white PDF of the book cover to colour in and draw inside, following the instructions. I also had a go at it myself and just about got the flowers coloured in by the end, finishing with this new doodle that was inspired by an exercise my friend Natalie Cooper (who illustrated the She Grrrowls anthology poems). I have often doodled and actually, as someone who is more of a conceptual artist (when it comes to visual art, this is always what I say, tongue-in-cheek, having illustrated my ‘Circles’ book myself), this is something I’d love to do more in an active way. After talking to someone else about their art therapy, which sounded like it incorporated similar techniques, I find it fascinating how doodling allows the free flow of moment without a plan, in a way that is so opposite to how I often work and live.

Lastly, I also want to recommend the film ‘Soul’. With everything that is happening in my life and other people’s lives at the moment, it was just so heart-warming and appropriate. I also recommend the short film on Disney + that goes into the background of the film.

Freelance Reflections #25

I think writing these reflections on a weekly basis should allow me some time to actually pause and think: what have I done this week? Often I make being “productive” a priority and aside from the daily grind and socialising (even if it just video calls and walks in the park for now), I often don’t feel creatively fulfilled. Aside from the importance of certain issues going on in the publishing world right now, I’ve been thinking about the idea of six-figure salaries being made through art, or even salaries close to the mark. It feels so far removed, and as much as I want to shake off the idea of the “struggling artist”, the idea of money and art is something that gets even more messy in my head when you start to combine it with ideologies like feminism, as well as subject matters like grief. Yet, here I am below, promoting my piece Circles for the Living Record Festival, trying to act like I’m talking to someone in the bar. I can be a pretty awkward person sometimes, so maybe it is realistic enough!

Being born into capitalism, valuing ourselves does seem to be linked with monetary value. Even as I’m writing this, I feel like I’m not valuing myself enough. I’ll use self-deprecating humour as a defence mechanism. I worry that I’m not putting the time into my art and creativity partly because of capitalism and chasing after the money (even if it only pays 3p per word), but also because I’m not believing in myself enough. I like my work, and I think it’s also getting better, yet even receiving compliments on it feels surprising.

Circles is new to the world, but for me, it’s something I’ve been holding onto for a long time, and this is part of me letting it go. I want to give myself the time to work on my other creative projects, whether they see the light of day or not. I’m slowly working on a new collection of poems that I feel is pamphlet length, a kind of memoir that even if I published under a different name would still contain too many identifying features, and a spoken word show that has been way too long in the making.

For now, I’m going to try my best to promote this show, as a celebration of what I have created, knowing that however many people it touches, it is important to someone else other than me. I remember reading the piece when I supported Sabrina Benaim at London’s Bush Hall. It was incredible to see the mass of people watching live poetry, but also felt great that audience members also appreciated my work, whether they bought my book or cried during my piece, hopefully allowing them to heal a little. In me letting this piece go, I hope others will be able to let go some of their own pain, whether from grief or lost love.

17.01.21 – 22.02.21

Audio of ‘Circles’ (Burning Eye Books, 2019) as part of the Living Record Festival. Buy tickets here.

Freelance Reflections #24

The Living Record Festival is why we do what we do. The creative work is why I have pursued the path of being self-employed. At times, I can lose sight of that, so it always feels good to be a part of something that nourishes the reasons for our being.

Tomorrow, Living Record Festival officially launches, and you will be able to listen to my audio for ‘Circles’, and use the PDF to print and use as you listen. You can buy tickets now and listen every day from tomorrow until 22nd February. I’ve also included a Q&A session for free, which will take place on Zoom on Friday 12th February 5-6pm. Tickets to listen cost just £5, and there’s also a link to buy the book, which I can sign and dedicate to you.

I’ll probably continue to bang on about the festival throughout it. As well as my own show, I’d recommend checking out Maria Ferguson’s ‘Alright, Girl?’ reading her book (which I’ve read) published by Burning Eye Books and Leanne Moden’s Skip Skip Skip (which I’ve seen live at Edinburgh Fringe Festival). I’d also like to recommend Elian Gray’s show as he kindly helped me when recording my piece, and it sounds exciting! With the national lockdown, it’s the perfect time to support artists and listen to something different each day, perhaps using the money that may otherwise be spent on your lunch break!

Freelance Reflections #23

Since my grandad passed away just over a week ago now, I’ve found how difficult it is to experience such close familial loss and try to work at the same time. This week has been a struggle, but when you’re self-employed, there is so much uncertainty about your finances and I didn’t find out about the funeral date until the end of the week, and which days of work would be impacted. It’s hard to even allow for time off, even when it’s so needed. Then again, my cousin has also been in the same position, unable to take time off from her job, despite 3-5 days being the standard, from what I know. It has meant welling up with tears whilst walking to work for 45 minutes, finding more time to talk to family without being able to see them, and writing poems of grief in the early hours of the morning.

I feel like I’m just about staying afloat, whilst wanting to carve time that allows me to realign my schedule the way that is more fulfilling each day. I’m also ordering 25 copies of my book ‘Circles’ from my publisher, Burning Eye Books, ahead of the digital ‘Living Record Festival’, which will be taking place from 17th January until 22nd February, where listeners can buy a copy of my physical book, along with the audio and creative activity. You can now buy £15 tickets for the festival, remembering that this includes a copy of the book, which is worth £10.

I am also waiting to hear the results tomorrow having been shortlisted for the Anthology Magazine prize, so fingers crossed! It would be something positive to hold onto for my poetry career, for sure, but even making the shortlist is still an achievement worth celebrating, something that I forget to do all too often.

Freelance Reflections #22

The start of the year will begin with the Living Record Festival, where I’ll be sharing ‘Circles’, as previously mentioned. I’ve been challenged as things have not gone as expected. My binaural experiment failed as it appeared the microphone was broken after spending an hour and a half setting it up, with lots of phone calls for support. I’d realised when I collected it that I could only test it out in the studio, and everything went perfectly in terms of set up, but it was just sod’s law that it didn’t work.

However, this has all been put into perspective and I’ve given myself more time to rest than ever. Yesterday, my maternal grandad died. It is still so raw and the shock is intense as he was in hospital only a week. As many others have experienced this year, it is the worst time to lose someone, as my parents and my nan are having to self-isolate after having seen him. But I am grateful they at least had that. He turned 80 just as we went into lockdown, and although we never got the celebration, we managed to see him in August.

I had 25th – 27th off to rest and relax, and likewise, I have given myself most of the time from the evening of New Year’s Eve until now to do the same, and just taking things slowly. Tomorrow is ‘Blue Monday’, but work may end up being a welcome distraction at the moment. Perhaps grief will allow me to work more in the way I want to, rather than with the stress and pressure I have been putting on myself on the lead up to and between these holiday breaks.

Freelance Reflections #21

The main news this week is that I am in the process of recording audio for the Living Record Festival. I’ve done one recording already, but I’ll be experimenting with a binaural microphone to see if I can do something a bit different. I’m going to try to give myself three solid days off for spending time with my bubble, walking, reading, watching films and eating good food, then I’ll be back in the studio recording and at my laptop polishing the piece.

I saw fellow Burning Eye poet Maria Ferguson post about it and thought I would also apply. After many years after doing Scratch That Hackney, I’ve been working with producer Ellie Barr as part of the festival, which I believe is where I may have performed some of ‘Circles’ before. To find out more about the festival and the other artists involved, please sign up to this mailing list.

As part of this digital festival, I’ll be featuring an audio version of my book ‘Circles’, with a ticket option to include a copy of the the physical book. Whilst listening, I’ll also include a PDF of an activity with every ticket. The festival launches in January 2021, so make sure to sign up to the mailing list to keep updated.

Freelance Reflections #20

December always seems to be the time where people start to take stock of the year that’s coming to an end. It is also a time that seems to be extremely busy, making sure to meet deadlines and get everything prepared for the holidays, even though these holidays will be very strange. I don’t like to think about it much as it makes me sad, but I also know I have a lot to be grateful for this year.

I haven’t had time to do much reflection at the moment, so will save that for nearer to the close of the year. Meanwhile, the reflection I have been doing is for how fortunate I am for the work I do. I love working with children one-on-one, and I’ve just started working with a new agency for a 4-hour placement each week, giving tuition to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access it. I’ve also started tutoring someone in Spanish, which is great as I am only around B1 level, and they have just started learning.

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Today I finally finished Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. I absolutely loved it, and having recently met with my old She Grrrowls co-host Ibizo Lami, who was listening to it on an audiobook for the second time, I really got the sense that it would be a good book to read again with the knowledge of having read it once. One of the things that I thought was so great about the book was that you would read something from one character’s perspective and agree with them, only to hear a counter-point from another character that made you think in a completely different way. It wasn’t so much about wrong and right, but it held multiple truths in coexistence.

I’ve been enjoying re-listening to all my top tracks on Spotify, and I’m slowly making my way through the ‘On Record’ playlist, which is incredible so far. I listened to Phil Taggart’s Slacker Podcast, interviewing Biffy Clyro, and it just really made me smile and laugh. ‘Switched on Pop’ was really interesting on ‘Unlocking the Rhythms of Rosalía’. A Zach Sang interview with Poppy was weird and wonderful, and I appreciated how she spoke about being softly spoken and commented ‘I like my volume’, when it was brought up. There were a couple of podcast episodes from Skullcandy, including one on Tommy Genesis, and so it was great to hear more about her. The podcast ‘Dissect’ came across as quite robotic in its delivery, but the dissection for Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ was really intriguing.

I watched ‘Prince Avalanche’, which was a really moving story of two brother-in-laws painting road lines, which was equal parts hilarious. I want to share more about the things like this that I come across. I feel like I haven’t really achieved the things I wanted to this year, but seeing as we’re in a pandemic, maybe I should give myself a break and appreciate the things I have done. Next year, I would like to focus less on productivity and more on carving out the time for my creative practice as well as my more regular, paid work, and to have more time on Sundays for reading and relaxing and maybe even watching more films.

Freelance Reflections #19

So, what can I say about this week being freelance? Well, I have a bill of nearly £1000 coming my way from overpaid tax credits in 2018-19. The good news: I earned more money than in 2017-18. The bad news: it’s 2020, I now pay rent, the Christmas holidays are approaching, and we’re in the middle of a pandemic. With that in mind, I’ve been taking the opportunity to plug my book, ‘Circles’.

Circles is an epic poem inspired by Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis. Taking the point of view of a suicide victim’s lover in the play post-death, the piece takes place on London’s tube network and follows the fragmented views of this once-absent character. It is a piece about love, loss and the line between sanity and insanity. Whilst fictional, the emotions and experiences are also inspired by elements of the author’s life, and are written with the aim to bring comfort and healing to those who can relate to its themes.

The book was published last year and I began to tour at the start of the year, and then… you know the rest. If I sold just 100 copies of this, then my bill would be sorted, so if you’re reading this and can spare a tenner, order a copy for yourself. If you can spare more, why not buy some for your friends and family? And if you can’t afford it, a share on social media or any way you can would really help.

I shared extracts from ‘Circles’ on ‘Spork’ in place of the real-life gig from my tour dates. It’s available to listen to on Spotify, and I’ll also be recording an audio version of the whole poem for The Living Record Festival in 2021, so watch this space for updates on that.

“I speak and the only voice I want to hear is yours” This is a quote from Carmina Masoliver’s stunning epic, Circles. Yet, I find myself feeling this way about her voice. Carmina has a very special way of finding the smallest of cracks in your heart and filling them with visceral, yet elegant poetry. She mines the mundane; those everyday moments riding the tube, or in the shower, or sitting with a stranger on a fence, and she brings you into them so gracefully, before you know it, you are sitting on the tube with her, “holding onto her hand in a reverie.” – Sabrina Benaim

‘This poetic dramatic monologue is at once lament, and testament to an unimaginable reality. Masoliver has created a theatrical poem that is both haunting and ethereal, where the audience experience the world though a protagonist trapped in on a train looping the central line and and her recurrent memories of a lost lover. The fragmented beautiful lyrical prose unfolds like a smashed mirror, each piece a jigsaw. Circles takes us effortlessly into the head of a suicide victim’s lover in order to illuminate the devastating effect of her grief. She captures an elusive emptiness whilst hypnotising us with an honest lyrical epic.’ – Malika Booker

I have five copies of my book in stock, and five more of the She Grrrowls anthology, so even if I sold those ten books, it would be lovely (as I would have to buy another big lot of books from the publisher in order to sell more than five of each). You can get them from both Burning Eye Books directly too, and I will be sure to plug again once I’ve sold out.

Tonight, I’ve just done the final Instagram Live show for She Grrrowls until next year. I’m giving myself January off, so the next show will be February 2021! It was particularly exciting to have fellow Burning Eye poet Cynthia Rodríguez share their work, which I loved during the She Grrrowls tour, when collaborating with Leicester’s Find the Right Words.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to find some balance between being horribly productive with all the stuff I have to do, doing the more creative stuff (when, oh when will I have time?) and giving myself a break and resting. This weekend, I’m having an actual weekend filled with mother-daughter Christmas shopping time and chilling the fuck out on Sunday with some wintery walks or something.