Audio of ‘Circles’ (Burning Eye Books, 2019) as part of the Living Record Festival. Buy tickets here.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As previously mentioned, last Thursday was the Roundhouse Poetry Slam. The results are in and Elliot Waloschek won first place, with the runners up being Syd Wilmot, SAF S2E and Amani Saeed. I was rooting for Amani, as well as Ruth Awolola and Oshanti Ahmed. When it came to it, I voted for Amani, but I wished I’d been able to vote multiple times for the others too. But alas, as host Toby Campion said: the points aren’t the point, the point’s the poetry. Though that prize money…
Anyway, I remember hearing Elliot’s first poem about “stealthing”, and it stood out and it was very rich in language, and I immediately wanted to hear it again. I felt like Ruth’s second poem was really joyous, and that is always refreshing to hear. Whilst Amani packed a punch with both poems, her second poem was really bold, a poem that seemed to be partly about white fragility, its ending open to interpretation, but perhaps there to provoke you into thinking about what the difference is between the list of insults given to white people to those of other races, as well as to feel the weight of hate speech, and what it actually means.
The thing about the Roundhouse Slam is that it has heats to go through, so everyone involved is a high-calibre poet. I remember being so upset at my final chance of being in the slam and I didn’t even make the heats. Roundhouse lovely, comedian and (ex)-spoken word artist (once a poet, always a poet…), Jack Rooke really cheered me up about it. I mean, it wasn’t like I was going to win if I couldn’t even get through the heats, was it? I did meet some amazing poets who I’m still in touch with today, such as Malaika Kegode and Ciarán Hodgers, who are doing great things in poetry still.
Meanwhile, this week has been hectic, and filled with admin and emotional upheaval after thinking I would have to self-isolate from the start of the week, to being told my contact’s positive Covid test was void.
Last Thursday, I watched R.A.P. Party on Zoom, hosted by Inua Ellams. I was cooking whilst it was on, then treated myself to a drink as the combination of music and poetry lends itself to a tipple. I knew most of the poets in the line-up, as mentioned in my previous post, but I hadn’t heard Gemma Weekes before. I was blown away, and both me and my flatmate said she was our favourite of the night. For me, not knowing what to expect, she really stood out. The content was very relatable for those of us who love hip hop, but remain critical of displays of misogyny, such as ‘Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks’, the Dr. Dre lyric Weekes dissected in her performance. With her arm propped against her knee, her delivery was captivating as the words came out as easily as breathing. This casual posture made you feel like you were literally inside her home, having a conversation over a cup of tea, only with a spoonful of sharp-tongued poetry rather than sugar.
I’ve also had some good news lately, having found out first via Twitter that I’d been longlisted for the Grindstone International Poetry Prize. My poem ‘Computer Generated Images’, recorded by Muddy Feet Poetry, was also in the Top 20 on The Poetry Archive, a competition judged by Imtiaz Dharker, Robert Seatter and Lavinia Singer.
Coming up this Thursday is the Roundhouse Poetry Slam Final streamed online, and it’s Pay What You Can. I’ve just seen the list of poets and know Amani Saeed, Ruth Awolola and Oshanti Ahmed personally, I’ll be rooting for them! There’s also an audience vote, which is exciting!
So, I have intended to do weekly posts, but when it came to it, I didn’t know what to write about. I had a think earlier today about what I could share, and I realised that I just need to get into a better habit of making notes of what I could share, reflecting on the previous week. I think I sometimes build things up in my head to be bigger tasks than they need to be, so perhaps this habit will help me to be concise and share some of what I’ve been up to, as well as what others are up to.
For example, at the same time as celebrating Trump’s loss in the elections, I believe this is my first poem in a North American publication, in the first issue of nine cloud journal. As I was wary of submitting this piece, ‘Toy Truck’, written as stated after the shooting of Charles Kinsey on 18th July 2016, it was so insightful to see the commentary on the first page: ‘…it’s okay not to have all the answers and you’re kidding yourself if you think you do know the answers. We can merely ask relevant questions and sit with these unanswered questions for a time until we inhabit the interior world of that question and live its truthful response.’ (Vijay R. Nathan).
As I stated in my Instagram post, three years later in 2019: The officer who shot Kinsey, Jonathan Aledda, after being arrested in 2017 and charged with attempted manslaughter and negligence, was found guilty by a jury of culpable negligence. Although fired from the police force, he didn’t serve any prison time. Kinsey could have been killed, and the culprit was instead sentenced to probation and had to write a 2,500 word essay on policing, serving a total of less than 5 months of probation before being released. It won’t even appear on his criminal record.
Whilst looking through a backlog of emails, I came across Laurie Eaves’ post on the Burning Eye Books website, outlining ten tips for writing a collection. It was a great read, and I really recommend it for those who have yet to publish anything. Even though I’ve had a couple of books published, I’m currently working on my first full-length collection. Although I felt finished in some sense, I’ve still been producing work that fits well within my vision for the collection, and I don’t want to rush it, especially as I already have work out there, and other projects going on in the background. One thing I have been trying to do is look at my schedule and how I can make more time for my creative work whilst still keeping everything else afloat.
Although I am largely just trying to get on and ignore the news, I was pleased to have had a negative COVID-19 test, and this was thanks to me doing a ‘freeze and share’ egg collection, as it was necessary to have regular temperature checks and then a test (which I didn’t get the results for, but assuming the procedure went ahead, I assume it’s all good). I had actually had a little cold, which I was paranoid about, but blasted it with garlic, plenty of vegetables and hot honey and lemon drinks, and now I’m feeling better.
Initially, I didn’t think I was coping as well in ‘Lockdown 2.0’, but I think when you compare the fact that my work has increased, and it’s cold and dark, then I’m not doing too badly. I’ve had triggers when it comes to BPD, and within the recent week, I’ve become more accepting of losing certain friends, if only through an understanding that it’s their issues and not me. I’ve actually started the DBP skills workbook I have, and came up with a boss distraction plan. I thought I’d share it below, in case it works for anyone else. I tried to think of things I could realistically do when intense emotions are triggered, as well as some rooted in the five senses (smell, touch, taste, sound, sight).
A friend of mine who has suffered with depression and found living alone in the previous lockdown really tough also has been practising gratitude, which is always a useful trick. Sometimes I can just walk around my flat and feel a wave of joy, and I am so grateful for my living situation now, as even though it’s completely fine to be in your 30s and live with your parents, I realise how much I needed independence as an adult in this stage of my life, and I’m so grateful of my friend who I lived with at university to be reunited in this way once again. It wasn’t healthy for me to be stuck where I was, and feel so trapped, and essentially be trapping myself… when I could have this freedom and form better relationships with my parents as a result, rather than living as a teenager, running home for dinner from the park.
Looking to the week ahead, I’m also excited for The 10 Year Anniversary and 50th Event R.A.P. Party. It’s unfortunate that it’s online, but it also means so many people can bare witness to the incredible line-up. It’s happening this Thursday, and tickets are Pay What You Can, which I certainly appreciated just after my rent went out. Inua Ellams and Theresa Lola are joined by Breis, Charlie Dark, Zena Edwards, Joshua Idehen, Jacob Sam-La Rose, Kae Tempest, Musa Okwonga, Nii Parkes, Gemma Weekes, and Polarbear. I plan to cook and eat in front of it, so I otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend due to my work schedule (although I live super close to The Albany now, woop!). There’s another silver lining to this surreal situation. And on a final note, I was really inspired and motivated by the four-part documentary ‘The Defiant Ones’, so check it out on Netflix.