I haven’t written an update on Carmina’s Cantata in a while, and as I’m back to it after a bit of a break, I thought I’d write a little on what I’m doing, as well as some more general stuff. So, after the festival, I didn’t listen to my body. I had an amazing massage should have gone home to rest, but I went to the Taking Back Sunday, Alkaline Trio and Destroy Boys gig… which I’m pretty sure if where I then got Covid! Made worse by going to see Funeral For A Friend the following week! I’d gone so long without it, I even thought maybe I’d had it but been asymptomatic. It was rough. It’s the second-worst illness I’ve had (the other being a kind of relative of Glandular Fever). I’m still struggling with the fatigue and my lungs don’t feel 100% when exercising. At one point I even got mixed messages about going to A&E, but I waited until Monday to see a doctor and it turned out that I just rushed into exercise. I’m feeling super tired right now and hoping I’m getting the balance right, as it’s something I struggle with.
I’d had to cancel my poetry gigs at SHEreos of Lewisham and R.A.P. Party, but I was at least able to watch The Albany stream, where an audio of my poem I’d recorded in the day was played, and a couple of people told me that my poem was one of their favourites. It was a joy to see people dancing to my chosen tracks as well. I was able to see the SHEReos of Lewisham exhibition with my poem in it the following weekend at Crofton Park Community Library. I have also been accepted onto the MA in Art Psychotherapy at Goldsmiths. As I’m not eligible for a government loan and getting a loan to cover the full tuition is proving to be impossible, I’m trying to crowd fund as much as possible. Read about and share my journey here.
As I was trying to work out what I could do whilst still resting… I did some drawings inspired by the themes of Grayson Perry’s Art Club. I just felt weirdly guilty for watching and listening to things… though I wish I knew you could get audiobooks from the library on your phone then! It’s just so hard to manage fatigue. So, this week, I have started to work on the podcast interviews. I have finished editing the one I used for the production course I did, and after a panic that I have forgotten everything, I now know what I’m doing again.
I interviewed poet and theatre maker Hannah Jane Walker about her book on sensitivity… and just had to cut it down from over 13,000 words to nearly 5,000 words! I may have to cut it down even more, but it is taking a lot longer than anticipated. Although off-putting in some ways, I have made a note on my to-do list to use the same platform (Otterly) to write transcripts. It won’t take quite as long as I won’t have to edit it down to an article length thankfully!
So, I got back on the bike and have commuted using it every day I’ve gone out (except Tuesday when it was pissing it down with rain and I got an eye infection so bad I had to cancel work… misdiagnosed as conjunctivitis, but actually an eye ulcer, so I’ll have matching eye scars…) I have realised a few things about me and cycling:
I enjoy going for a bike ride far more than using it as a way to commute.
I’m so wary of roads now, I refuse to go on those with traffic, instead annoying pedestrians and (and annoying myself with how bumpy pavements are), so it takes me at least double the time Google says.
It is only marginally quicker than walking, and I don’t even get to listen to music and podcasts.
I feel so anxious before and during, that after my hands ache from holding the handlebar so tight.
I feel much more visible and self-conscious than when walking, when I feel more like I’m in my own world.
Still, I’m proud of myself for trying, and I will try to use it the days I feel I can, which will likely be Monday and Wednesday. Thursday could work, but will also involve some train travel, and I’m not sure how the cycle from Sutton the the centre I work in will feel.
I’m working seven days in a row this week due to holding stalls last Sunday (pictured), where I sold just one book, and two badges… and tomorrow I’ll be at Camberwell Green’s Farmer’s Market, which is fantastic as they invite one artist a week to have a free table! The other ones were SoLo Craft Fair and I paid £60 a pop, plus the very specific and expensive insurance. Help! I spent the time writing my journal, studying Spanish and Turkish (the latter subject really hurt my head), and then spent the last hour doing this doodle. Time well spent, I suppose…
Last weekend, I bought an SE23 badge for me and two of my SE23 friends, as Forest Hill had open studios as part of Sydenham’s art festival. It was between pub one and two on a pub crawl I did with some friends, where we found a pub with amazing bao buns, and another with karaoke, which usually takes place on Thursdays. It’s my longest day, but maybe a sing-song is just what I’ll need some days. We’ll be back.
Lastly, for anyone in Hastings, I’ll be at The Electric Palace on both Friday 24th and Saturday 25th at 8pm, with the Friday being a film screening, showing my poem ‘Grandad’, amongst others, followed by a Q&A. The Saturday will be a poetry set, and it’ll be the first indoor performance in well over a year since I was doing my ‘Circles’ tour, that was halted just a few months in.
This Saturday 20th March I am going to be a special guest on Ibizo Lami’s ‘Self-care Saturdays’ on Instagram Live. The show starts at 3pm and lasts for around half an hour. Simply tune in via the live feed and I’ll be sharing some of my personal self-care tips, especially useful if you have any traits of Borderline Personality.
This week has been a struggle, but I’m dealing with things surprisingly well, and I think that’s thanks to working so much last week, and having a little less work this week. That meant that when I was told that I don’t meet the threshold to get therapy via the NHS for my particular needs (essentially, the therapist told me I do need help, but I would need to pay for it thanks to the lack of resources i.e. fuck the Tories), I was able to finish a painting that I have submitted to Grayson Perry’s Art Club. However, I just realised that I forgot to send a 2-minute video about the piece, so I hope it can still be considered, as you never know!
I also recently found out that a friend who I had sensed was being distant was doing so intentionally, (trust your gut!) and after seeing they had unfollowed me on Instagram, I asked them about it. All my worst fears came true: they didn’t want to talk about it, and it was to do with my ‘intensity’. It sucks having issues with fear of abandonment, so then when someone does essentially abandon you, as well as dealing with the loss of that person, it also reaffirms the negative beliefs about your personality and being “too much, too intense”.
Well, in the words of Beyoncé: ‘I’m just too much for you’.
Being Borderline, it’s hard to not let such things make you think that all friends who you haven’t spoken to in a while are feeling the same way. Talking to another BP babe, they pointed out that the true friends are the ones who stick it out, even when you exhibit such behaviours. Everyone communicates in the wrong way sometimes, and the best way to deal with things is through proper conflict-resolution. If a friend isn’t willing to do that, then you’re probably better off without them anyway. For the first time in my life, my self-esteem is somehow high enough for me to truly believe it is their loss.
My painting ‘Footprints’ is for sale on my Big Cartel for £200. Although I am a poet, my book ‘Circles’ features my own illustrations, I completed an Art Foundation Diploma at Central Saint Martins, sold my first painting prior to that, and I’m going to put out another mixed media poetry publication. I hope to carve out more time to combine my poetry with visual art, producing text-based canvases.
It was recently World Mental Health Day, and I wanted to start writing this blog again. I made a note in my calendar to try to do it weekly, but even then I’ve ended up pushing it back to three days later. It’s been over a year since I actually wrote a proper freelance reflection, so I guess things are going well in that respect, but for my next post, I hope to catch up with that.
So, the topic of this post was the question as to whether poetry is therapy. My short answer is no, but that’s not to say poetry and other forms of art can’t be used for therapeutic goals. Over a year ago now, I made a new friend through other friends and he challenged me to write something everyday, and he would do the same. He wasn’t a writer, but wanted to be more creative, and he told me in this time that it was something that really helped him. After a year, I had a lot more material that I would have had otherwise, and I think the process was therapeutic for both of us.
Poetry is cathartic for me, and it is naturally how I process things. I aim to write my diary each morning, but it is writing poetry that gets to grips with certain issues, delving into them in a way my simple prose writing often doesn’t. Fellow writers may also have the same experiences, whereby the same themes will reemerge time and time again, haunting you, as if each time you return to it, you are attempting to exorcise it from you. There is something about getting it down on paper in a poetic form that allows you to distance yourself from it somehow, as you then try to craft it into art, and shape it into something that can then also connect with others and help them too.
Helping others is what motivated the artist Rich Simmons to create the project ‘Art Is The Cure’. He explains in the short film how art has helped him with autism and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. He talks about how visual art can help as a means of self-expression, and how it can be a positive release, even going as far as saving his life. Throughout the last few months, experiencing lockdown, I have also recounted how poetry has saved my life, in response to the way the arts are suffering and how they continue to be devalued. He talks about how other kinds of art can help us, and that it is really creativity as self-expression that is at the core of what is therapeutic in this sense.
This concept was also summed up in one of my favourite podcasts (before they moved from Spotify to Luminary, which isn’t available in the UK), ‘Guys We Fucked’ by ‘Sorry About Last Night’, made up of comedians Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson. They would repeat the phrase ‘comedy is therapy’. After Tweeting about a show I’d listened to that made me both laugh, cry, and heal, on a train, they repeated this phrase again when retweeting me. Likewise, Apples and Snakes shared poet Inua Ellams’‘Art as Therapy’, where he discusses the topics, stating:
“Any seasoned poet will concur that more time is spent editing than writing. Involved in that process is the going-over of memories and instances, of emotions and images, the combing-through and the filing-down-to-their-smoothest-most-ergonomic-shapes our creations. It involves meditation, introspection and inspection. This for me is where poetry becomes therapeutic, when the created serves the creator, when the feather serves the bird.”
All of these points are true, but it was this Tweet from Burning Eye, which put the state of mental health in UK today into perspective: when it comes to talking about mental health, things are getting better, but when it comes to funding and enabling people to have access to therapy, we are a long way off.
Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay – just a quick one to say hello, your feelings are valid. Poetry can be a powerful tool for healing, but it is not therapy. Your audiences are not therapists and you do not have to give everything you have every time. Find joy in your writing. x
Poetry, art and any kind of creative self-expression is certainly therapeutic, but it is not in itself the same as therapy. CBT and mindfulness are also great tools to tackle mind anxiety and depression, but even with CBT, I would argue that it is pushed because it is often cheap. It is often delivered in groups, and can even be DIY, but it is not a miracle cure. Really, what is needed is a holistic approach, that gives value to both therapy and medication, which can often work best in tandem, rather than it being a case of one or the other (though I’d argue sometimes therapy alone could work, I’m skeptical about medication alone working, but that’s more to do with my view that everyone would benefit from therapy).
At the start of this year, I saw a psychologist who said I had traits of BPD; she phrased it ‘Emotional Intensity Disorder’, but this is just one of the many alternative names for Borderline Personality Disorder. I tend to use the term ‘BPD’ because it is more well-known, though I do feel that EID does capture a large part of the characteristics of my own experience. What others may deem to be “too sensitive” simply refers to my lived experience, and whilst there are negative points to feeling so intensely, I am thankful that at least these experiences of emotions has given me greater empathy and compassion for others.
Although I see it as a kind of neurodivergence, because of the fact, I often feel I really need the support of therapy, whether one-to-one, or a support group. Unfortunately, the support I was given previously was inadequate, essentially due to lack of funding and not being suicidal enough to get proper therapy (though ironically, that changed over the last few months, when it has been impossible to get anywhere). After moving, I found a support group that would have been free to attend, but I was in the wrong borough, and I haven’t had much luck finding anything beyond the £75-100 BPD therapy sessions. If there was a way to pay a fraction of the cost, and for the majority to be covered, it may be doable, but I’m not aware that this framework exists. Previously, I had paid for one-to-one counselling at a cheaper rate, but it didn’t meet my needs.
I know I need to do more self-help work as well, and part of me is using other (sometimes unhealthy) coping mechanisms rather than delve into the DBT book I have, for example, which is meant to be good for those with BPD. Aside from that, poetry, amongst other things, has saved my life, where the system has failed me, and so many others. The less fortunate are no longer with us.
Suicide rates are continuing to rise, and our mental health is bound to be the collateral damage of the current pandemic. Writing, drawing, walking, skateboarding, rollerblading, dancing, singing, cooking, playing games, and having a good support system have all helped me and continue to do so. But when things are okay, I still don’t feel I have the right tools to cope when triggered, where I might turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, whether manifesting as an “episode” of crying inconsolably, screaming in a rage, or self-harming (in its many forms). When these moments happen, I’m reminded that I do need help, but at other times when I reflect on my instability in relationships, it can dawn on me how much I need support in unlearning certain patterns (one of the biggest I think being related to elements of emotional abuse, whereby I have grown attached to receiving comfort after either being ignored or treated poorly emotionally in some way, meaning I am finding myself becoming attached to those who use such manipulation tactics or simply behave in an avoidant way due to their own attachment issues, for example).
Where the system does fail us, we have art to reflect our experiences when we consume it, and we have this fantastic ability to create, where talent and skill doesn’t have to matter, as it is something that everybody can do to feel good, whether it’s as a means of self-expression, an attempt to heal from pain, or simply to get a buzz from creating something from nothing.
If you want to know more about BPD disorder, I stumbled upon this video, which I’ve found accurately describes most of my experience. The fears of abandonment, interpersonal issues, and difficulties with regulating emotions are described here as the main characteristics. The only thing I would say, is that I have a strong sense of identity, though I can relate to the idea of having different personas within myself, but in a way that I feel is somewhat “normal”. I also feel like to say a reaction is “too much” is difficult to fully get to grips with, as it is in response to real emotions, and whilst I fully acknowledge I need to take responsibility for the ways I cope with these emotions, more often than not, a little empathy and compassion goes a long way too.
In the video, Dr Ramani also emphasises that diagnosis is a tool to drive treatment, rather than labelling someone, which is also a great point to remember.
If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email email@example.com or visit the Samaritans website to find details of the nearest branch. I have also personally found CALM’s chat function helpful, because phone calls with strangers can also provoke anxiety.
“As somebody who comes from a deprived London council estate with a background in gang violence and uneducated until 17, and have been to prison 6 times (a route that I managed to redirect over the last four years), I can safely say that this has been one of the greatest experiences I’ve had.”
This event will build on the success of its first that took place in June this year at Park Theatre in Finsbury Park and has been designed by the group to showcase their hard work and perseverance. We will also be launching the collaborative project album that has both been produced and created by the group. With the aim of reaching a wider audience, the support from this event will not only help the next generation of artists achieve their potential but also continue to allow ex-offenders to articulate their voices.
I have spent a few days with my boyfriend in Norwich. I read and wrote, and memorised and recorded poems. On our day off we went for a Chinese buffet, and went to an art gallery and to see a band. Here are some photographs from Moosey Art’s exhibition at Stew Gallery, Art in my Mouth.I really recommend checking out all the artists and the work is really affordable, so I really hope some people get behind these guys.
Funnily enough I saw someone post something on Facebook about the coins above. Check out the Tales You Lose page to find out more and see some of the other designs.
These pineapples are only £30 each! I really want one… but then, you can’t really just get one can you? They look so scrumptious, I’d love them to go up in my house, if I ever move out of my parents’ house! The wall below was completed as part of the live art they had at the opening night.
That evening I had booked tickets for Annie Eve the day before. I felt like we were a bit of a rubbish audience, as everyone seems too shy to come forward and lingered at the edges the whole night. Matt’s house is quite a walk from the city centre, so we were quite happy to follow suit and sat on the floor for the gig. Matt spoke to the support act that we saw, and so we think this was Norwich lad, George Cheetham (and not Harry Edwards, whose name was also on the line-up). He was a great support act, with loop pedals and tricks up his sleeve in the form of a harmonica and melodica. He was a bit too self-deprecating at times, but he mostly appeared confident and friendly.
Whilst Cheetham had fully enunciated his words, my only criticism of Annie Eve would be for her to open her mouth wider so we could hear her beautiful lyrics more clearly. Cheetham’s words were very clear, but with lyrics such as ‘she’s as drunk as a skunk’, they didn’t have the emotional depth of Annie’s. Still, I think it’s great that he played both old and new material, and with tales of working in shops and taking five years to make his album, he seemed like a pretty inspirational guy. So, with that in mind, I felt like my ears were straining to make out the words Annie Eve was singing, which hindered my enjoyment a bit. However, I was really glad to see her live, and she can only grow as a performer, which her change between acoustic and electric shows. Maybe with time and more confidence and experience she will sing more clearly, as I really think her lyricism is a big part of her appeal. I’ve given a few hints to Matt to get me her album, so hopefully he will take note – and hopefully it will contain lyric sheets (my main reason for still wanting to buy CD albums). Click below to view her song ‘Ropes’ on YouTube.
I have been very busy these past few months, but on Saturday 9th March I went to something that meant I had to get back to typing at these keys: WOW Festival. For those that don’t know about this, WOW stands for ‘Women of the World’ and is a series of events and discussions at Southbank, in London. But first, a quick catch up.
I went to Barcelona during my half term holiday. I stayed with my friend, Laura who is working there at the moment. I also saw my cousin (who was on an exchange) and paternal grandfather (who is Spanish and lives there) and ate out with my parents who holidayed there too.
It was really relaxing and enjoyable, with the rain holding off and excitement at a glimpse of sunshine.
In other news, I have had a poem accepted into Brittle Star magazine. I’m pretty sure I have been rejected from there before, which makes my achievement even more special somehow.
I went to see Tim Walker’s exhibition at Somerset House, after the V&A exhibition of ‘Hollywood Costumes.’ The latter was interesting, but honestly, too crowded to enjoy properly. It was like being on a conveyor belt, rather than walking around a gallery. And I was disappointed to see that the red shoes and pinafore from the Wizard of Oz were both replicas. On the other hand, Tim Walker’s free exhibition was fascinating. Showing that fashion is not an inferior art form through his photography, amazing pictures lined the walls of rooms where large objects brought them to life.
In the world of poetry, I have been notified of my acceptance to perform at a festival, but I cannot reveal just yet which festival that is, so watch this space!I’ve also been busy organising my latest project: Poetry&Paint. I’m so pleased with the responses I’ve had and excited to launch the anthology at Craft Central’s space, ‘The Showcase’ on Saturday 30th March. There will be performance and discussion from Selina Nwulu, Daniel Lehan, Greta Healy, Robyn Comfort and Bill Vine. The exhibition is from 3pm and the evening event starts from 7pm.
I have also been working where I am employed, very hard.
Yet, I have also been organising something else. On Thursday 7th March, myself and Emily Prichard kicked off the International Women’s Day celebrations with the first ‘She Grrrowls’ Feminist Group meeting. We made some promotional hearts out of card and have scattered them around London.
I must also add that I treated my Mum to seeing Bridget Christie at the Purcell Room in Southbank on Friday. I felt very privileged to be attending her biggest show thus far, and both my Mum and I enjoyed her Feminist comedic commentary on our society, including a hilarious physical display demonstrating why we females should be so thankful for the Bic pen ‘For Her’.
The great shame for my Saturday activities at WOW was that I had no company. Not because I didn’t want to be on my own, but because none of my female friends were their for their own interest.
I have managed to visual document the presence of Ruby Wax, one half of Feminist men duo who co-wrote ‘The Guy’s Guide to Feminism, and Bidisha with Lisa Appignanesi. There were such a range of amazing events, but alas, I could only be at one place at a time.
The introduction to Saturday’s WOW was called ‘The Keys to the Castle. One of the most interesting speakers for this section was space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, and I immediately thought how great it would be for her to talk to the students at my work (I work at a school). It was really inspiring and I even learnt things that I didn’t really know about space. Well, 96% of space is undiscovered, so there’s a lot of work to be done in that field!
Next, I went to Michael Kaufman’s talk on The Guy’s Guide to Feminism. He read extracts from the book he co-wrote with Michael Kimmer, and commented on these extracts in an interesting and amusing way. Part of this intention must have been to promote the book – an easy-to-read A-Z of Feminism for the male reader – and it certainly made me want to get it for any male friends and the boyfriend! I highly recommend it, and I haven’t even read it yet.
The next talk that I went to was so powerful and emotive that nothing to follow could be more important to attend. This talk had the simple title: Rape. Chaired by Southbank’s artistic director, Jude Kelly, it began with Joanna Bourke’s revelation of shocking facts and statistics surrounding the subject matter. These things included:
1/ Marital rape was only made illegal in Scotland in 1989 (the year I was born).
2/ The rest of the UK followed suit in 1992.
3/ 1 in 3 films contains rape.
4/ Also reported by The Guardian: “one in three people believes that women who behave flirtatiously are at least partially responsible if they are raped.” (2005)
5/ There are more convictions of rape nowadays but 85% of rape cases go unreported.
6/ 1 in 5 females will be raped in their lifetime. If you know over 5 females, you do the maths.
7/ Some myths about rape: ‘no’ can mean ‘yes’, you can’t rape a resisting woman, some rapes aren’t serious, women ‘ask for it’ and women lie. Do not believe these things.
8/Research into false accusations shows a risk of just 3%, which is in line with all other crimes.
9/ We need to talk about rape and educate young people about it.
10/ A woman’s biggest risk of rape has little to do with stranger danger. Most rapists know their victim; they are either friends, boyfriends, family or work colleges. This is why men need to speak out about things like rape jokes, and casual misogyny. If you don’t, you just placate those that do and normalise rape, deeming it acceptable. If you are male, you can make a pledge to fight against violence towards women through the White Ribbon Campaign.
The audience then listened to the stories of real victims of rape (although none of them like to think of themselves as victims). One woman sent her story by email because after nine years she did not feel ready to tell it. I was shocked not just by the horrific atrocities these women had suffered, but the poor state of the legal system, where visible physical injury, and an eyewitness lead to a judge telling the jury to consider if they wanted “to ruin this young, talented man’s life” before making their decision, then to be acquitted of the charge. It also pained me to hear journeys they had been through to come to this stage and their determination not to let this incident define them.
One major point to come out of this discussion was the need to talk about rape and to educate young people about it.
After this harrowing topic, I contemplated a talk with teenagers about the term ‘Feminist’ but then decided to go to ‘Aint I A Woman’ which saw a panel of women discussing black women and popular culture. Speakers included Hannah Pool (chair), Kieran Yates, Angelique Kidjo, Miki Turner and Shirley Tate. It was really interesting, and I found Kieran Yates to be particularly on point throughout. The statement that sparked off the talk stood strong to the end: the struggle to end racism and the struggle to end sexism are intertwined. Although this is something I like to aim for in my brand of Feminism, I feel that, as a white women, the involvement of other races is necessary for Feminism to truly reflect the experiences and problems of all women.
The penultimate event I attended was Ruby Wax’s ‘Out of Her Mind’ which was the perfect blend of tragedy and comedy, about a topic that interests me: mental illness. The importance of communication was expressed again. Wax concluded that now at her dinner parties, when asked how she is, she explains ‘the same as you: dealing with heartache, death and loneliness… Hors d’œuvre?’
Lastly, I listened to women such as Bidisha and Lisa Appignanesi read extracts from ‘Fifty Shades of Feminism’ (another must-have read). I then rushed home for a nice big dinner and discussed the day with my Dad, who talked to me about all the topics, giving me some historical background (being a history teacher) and revealing that he is a Feminist… though not in those exact words, the conversation still had me beaming with pride to have such amazing parents. I then re-told and re-discussed with my Mum on Mother’s Day over a game of Scrabble.
Less than a week away now! I’m excited about the event and a little bit nervous. I think it should run smoothly but you never know. I’m probably more nervous about socialising and performing myself rather than all the other parts. My worries over audience have subsided slightly as I know a few people are coming but I would love for people I don’t actually know to turn up and enjoy the evening.
I’ll be at the venue from 10am trying to tempt people to come back for the evening. There will be a visual display so if you want more time to enjoy that aspect of the event then I’d recommend coming between 6.30pm and 7pm. Performances will start at 8pm sharp, allowing time at the beginning for drinks, nibbles and mingling. Performances are from Rosy Carrick and Catherine Woodward and I’m most looking forward to what they will be doing! After the poetry there should be some time for more of that, as well as buying anything – I’ve got badges, books, stickers, bookmarks, CD’s, t-shirts and paintings!
I’ll keep this update short and sweet as I’m at a crucial stage of my MA and have lots of work to do. I also noticed I haven’t updated July for artist of the month, let alone August!
I’m going to begin this post by writing about my Gran’s 70th birthday, otherwise it might appear a little tame compared to the titled news. I went to Margate with my family and loved being near the sea, as well as the second-hand furniture shops and vintage stores. We stayed at the Walpole Bay Hotel which I would have liked to look more at as it is a living museum, giving it an eerie quality. Whilst in Margate I got to see Tracey Emin’s new work at the Turner gallery in ‘She Lay Down Deep Beneth the Sea.’ Emin tends to polarise people, but having seen her exhibition at the Hayward, I am ever the more passionate about her work. I feel that she is more of a writer than a visual artist, which some people may think is strange, but as she has said herself, she doesn’t care if she’s not the best visual artist in the world because ‘that isn’t my job.’ That’s not to say she’s not very skilled at the visual – she can make embroideries that look like paint! But, to me, it’s about more than just the visual, it’s about the story and the emotion.
The exhibition was free but I would urge anyone who sees it to spend the £2 for a headset so that you can really explore the work. What I found especially interesting, which you would be able to gather without the headset, is the inclusion of JMW Turner and Auguste Rodin alongside Emin’s work. Erotic nudes are displayed in a corridor-like room and seeing as the work shown was from the 1800s to the early 1900s, it makes me wonder what people find so crude and shocking about Emin’s work. There is a juxtaposition of gender here. I’m not sure I can offer any insight as to why Emin depicting her own body is so controversial. Perhaps people see it as self-indulgent, or cocky, but surely, writing and painting what you know best is the most natural thing to do? What I remember hearing Emin say through my headset, and what I believe also, is that although you are creating from yourself, once placed in public, the meaning transcends so that these bodies become not just Emin, but every woman.
I recently bought these pictures and some footage (which I’m still awaiting) of my performance at Finger in the Pie. I realised that I had forgotten to mention that after my feature slot for IYAF and when one audience member stated he was ‘too critical’ to give an opinion, I pressed him for one. The first comment her made was that ‘it was very… feminine.’ He said a bit more and ended with something about being myself, but this comment stuck in my head. At the time I was a bit taken aback, but the more I thought about it the more it annoyed me. I reflected on the poems I had read, and a lot of them were autobiographical ones, or else ones about female characters ‘Cinderella’ and one quoting Sylvia Path with ‘the woman is perfected,’ plus another based on a Russian film called The Mirror. So, I can understand that someone would then make the comment that they were feminine.
However, the thing that annoyed me about this statement was that it was pitched as a negative. I am capable of writing poetry that is neutral or genderless and as I have written less of the autobiographical, this is more so the case, but there was an implication in the comment that feminine is the opposite of masculine. The context appeared to deal with those pesky binary oppositions that equate the masculine with right and the feminine with wrong. It begs the question, if my poetry is feminine, then what poetry is masculine? Or is masculine the elite poetry and feminine poetry just the Other? Can a man write feminine poetry? This idea was bothering me. However, much of the time I want my poetry to express my views, and some of what I write is as a Feminist, an activist, and… guess what? As a woman. So, if someone sees my poetry as ‘feminine’ I don’t mind. My problem, as I said before, is the assumption that ‘feminine’ equals ‘bad’.
I think it’s an incredibly loaded statement to describe someone’s writing is feminine. In some ways feminine writing has a lot to do with modernism, stream of consciousness and writers such as Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. Some say that this style can also been seen to be adopted by James Joyce, a man. If I am counted alongside these writers, I won’t complain!
There are also writers such as Dorothy Parker who I love. But just because Parker writes as a woman, and as a feminist, does this mean her writing is feminine? Is feminine writing lady-like? Does it wear lipstick? A quote on the back of her collected works by Peter Ackroyd says ‘she managed to express her real feelings in stanzas which snap and glitter like a Chanel handbag,’ which I like. But this idea of emotional writing, as well as writing from the body, is synonymous with feminine writing.
In a discussion I wrote about during Poetry Parnassus, women writers discussed our place in literature today. The consensus seemed to be that women should do more than write from the body, especially as they pointed out, that some publishers (referencing Africa) will put a body on the cover of a book by a woman, even when unrelated. I agree that women can and should write about everything, but I don’t think that writing from the body should be excluded. If it feels natural for you to do so, then by ignoring that desire surely you are placating to a patriarchal idea that the feminine writing is ‘wrong’?
‘Oxymoronic writing: perhaps, but it’s reality that is oxymoronic.’
This criticism has made me want to rush through Hélène Cixous essays. Perhaps the critic at the event wanted my performance provide a more bisexual offering? But then, as a woman on stage, perhaps anything I could have said would have heralded me as ‘feminine’. As a Feminist, part of me would like to think I can write whatever way I chose. However, I also acknowledge that there is a difference, to write as a woman. And I would rather embrace it, play with and experiment with it, than ‘function within masculine thinking [and] restrict [myself] to the range of its logocentric vocalizations’ (Elmer G. Weins).
Moving on… Pussy Riot are a group of Feminist using art and music to protest against Putin. The group has over ten-members, anonymised through colourful balaclavas, and grabbing attention in miss-matched tights and dresses. I read about it on The Guardian website and found out that three members have been arrested and the rest are in hiding. One member, referred to as Squirrel, states Putin is ‘scared of girls’ which gives the article a punchy ending. However, these young women are incredibly brave and serve to remind us of why women around the world should be Feminists and support struggles such as those the population of Russia currently face. As Poetry Parnassus reminded us, free speech is often taken for granted in countries such as the UK. Maybe that’s why I’m not ashamed to be a ‘feminine’ writer – because we still have a reason to fight, and we have something to say about the feminine experience of the world.
Yesterday I handed in my latest four pieces of coursework, including my interview piece with Benjamin Zephaniah. I met with my Gran at the Tate Modern, where we started our day with the Yayoi Kusama exhibition.
I first came across Kusama whilst studying my art foundation at Central Saint Martins and I became fascinated by her use of polka-dots and her use bright colours, and her poetry. I bought a book of hers which I sadly lost in a photocopier (or so I suspect). I did write down this quote:
“A polka-dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm Round, soft, colourful, senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots can’t stay alone; like the communicative life of people, two or three polka-dots become a movement.”
I was also inspired by use of cherry blossom depicted in the poem below, which I used in my paintings in order to symbolise the conflict between childhood and adulthood.
I want to eat cherry blossoms.
I want to kiss their pink colors.
Their scent that would have reached the universe dissipated in my youth.
Remembering that, now tears roll down my eyes.
Scattering cherry blossom petals on the path of my faint love, I will be facing death someday.
When that day arrives, all the love that I have had in my past, I will enwrap life.
On that moment, the flower path of cherry blossoms will envelop the whole of me without fail.
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms.
They explore my life and death.
Dear Cherry blossoms, I thank you
I first saw her exhibition at White Cube, and so this exhibition was interesting in terms of exploring the variety of her work, of which I loved every bit.
We went for a quick meal at Mon Plaisir which was nice. The main meal was quite small, but the desert was lovely – a rich chocolate mouse with a passion-fruit ice cream. Then, it was time for my birthday treat – Matilda the Musical! I thought it was good that it was faithful to the story-line but also was not restricted by it, making adaptions, and infusing more magical threads to the narrative. It did feel really magical and I loved the songs, as well as some of the messages they conveyed about being the writer of the story of your life, and although the main star, Matilda, is generally a good girl, that ‘sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty’ when you feel like something is not right to you.
In other news, I’ve had a couple of rejections – the Charles Pick Fellowship and my first application for Arts Council funding. I was disappointed that I’d had to email to ask about the Fellowship and that I would have not been contacted otherwise. I’d had a nightmare about not being accepted for it so it was really gutting that I’d not even made the short-list. Next year I think I’ll reapply with my novel idea, as maybe proposing to write a series of children’s short stories was not good enough, especially as a faculty member at UEA had told of the polarised views of children’s literature by the other staff.
I didn’t expect to be successful for my first arts council application. As I have the money to put my event on from being a Poet Shadow in Shake the Dust, I don’t have to worry about actually not being able to afford it. Though, making a profit will be unlikely. And although you can’t make a profit with Arts Council funding, it does mean the money isn’t coming out of your own pocket, resulting in a loss. Anyway, I emailed for further feedback and got a great response and so have lots to learn for any future applications. Particularly the idea of whether I actually do want to do any more events – do I want to be a writer or a producer? I’d say 100% a writer, first and foremost, but that I would like involvements in events and sometimes enjoy putting on my own events. Also, this pilot project is more about just putting myself out there and learning from the experience, so we’ll have to wait and see!