Dysfunctional

Having returned from a much-needed break in Corrèze, France, visiting my Gran, I have now found the time to write a about my latest poetic adventure (though not the time to go through emails just yet). Over the last few months I’ve been taking part in a series of workshops with different mentors, through The Writing Room with Apples & Snakes. This culminated in a group performance on 13th August.

The Writing Room Showcase sort of felt like the coming together of a dysfunctional family, including some family members you never knew existed. Some pieces were created through workshops with the mentors, some throughout the last few months leading up to the show, and some just days before the event, but through the process we learnt a lot and came together as a group – the room filled with support for those that take on the risky path of the art world…

Ben Jacobs – for the ups and downs of the process, sharing in the strangeness of not making the cut for Young Poet Laureate for London, and the hope for the future.
Lateisha Davine Lovelace-Hanson – for her words of wisdom and loosening us up for the performance, making me laugh and taking me out of myself when all I could think of was trying to remember my poetry. Reminding us that we need to “own” our words.
Kes Gill-Martin – for a piece that spoke volumes about what we’re all trying to do, which I need as my mantra when I’m struggling with the ideas of ever having kids and a mortgage.
Rachel Long – for writing so many beautiful and varied poems I want to hear them all again, including a really witty piece about the Megabus that I could really identify with. For her warm smile and hugs.
Sarah Ball -for the way her voice and beautiful words resounded through my mind throughout the weeks we were preparing our poems for the showcase.
Temi Lateef – for letting his guard down and speaking of love and its complexities in a way we all know, standing out for what he believes to be good and true.
Ruban Nathan – for expanding our horizons, telling untold stories from his travels, and for making me feel better for my splurge in Beyond Retro after seeing his bag at Roger’s session.
Lucy Jackson – for writing and performing a great piece, and then acknowledging that a writer’s work is never done – the struggle and enjoyment are one. And for, like me, eating a proper dinner from Thai and Lao at Boxpark (yum!)
Kareem Parkins-Brown – for his amazing imagery and figurative language, making my jaw-drop from the first session we were together in, with Joelle Taylor.

Daisy Dockrill – for doing her job so incredibly well and for her never-ending positive energy!

Sabrina Mahfouz – for getting the crowd going with an amazing poem and inspiring us that if we get out there, we can be a success.

Roger Robinson – for the workshop that shook me up and meant that I memorised my pieces, and for coming along and supporting the show, making me feel good about my writing.

Joelle Taylor, Mark Grist and Mixy – for some wonderful mentoring sessions that have produced pieces I’ve wanted to write but haven’t, and for all the mentors involved for showing us the importance of editing and re-working – Ben and I hope to record a version of our joint piece in the future, when we’ve got it to a place we’re both happy with.

Mary Akinsulire – for sending me a kind message when I really needed it, because despite all this positivity, sometimes you can just feel down.

Our theme began with my idea for the unspoken stories of the many people on public transport, and it became a tale of our personal journeys, with a connection between us encapsulated by five lines I ended with:

During the delay I derailed myself,
escaped onto the tracks.
My emergency was a red light;
the signal failure told me to run,
reminded me of fields and trees and dreams.

My offering for the showcase can be read below:

You know me as the wallflower

Pressed up against glass,
bodies and newspapers.
Glass without transparency,
bodies without intimacy,
newspapers with blurred words.

I peer over your shoulder
like a warm breath,
trying to work out
who you are,
where you’re going.

You know me as the wallflower,
but, I don’t smile for you. Sometimes,
you may witness a sorrow you cannot place.
You want to ask if I’m okay,
as you wonder why my eyes well, my body swells
with a habit I just can’t shake,
as damaging as an earthquake,
but soft as a petal,

you know me as the strange one, quiet one,
the one who you can’t quite put your finger on,
you linger on me just for a second, move on
like a passing thought, a panic
– did you leave the iron on?

Mostly, I blend like a colour palette,
but my shoulders are a little too bent forward,
my cheeks flushed, I sometimes sweat,
eyes glance down but speak when met.
I am unknown, and that’s as good as it gets

stuffed up inside here like sausage meat.
Tired eyes are made up with mascara,
hidden with sunglasses.
Heads bend down,
eyes closed, just resting,
or fixed on a game of Tetris,
or not even there, but stretching
out of the window,
out of at patch of sky
through a slit of space.

I create characters out of your tattoos,
your scuffed shoes, your bead of sweat,
your lazy eye, your pink silk tie.
Imagine people I haven’t met
out of your plum-red lips,
your bitten-bleeding fingertips,
your eye-brow piercing,
piercing blue eyes, piercing voice
carried through phone lines,
train lines, blood lines

and much as we crane our necks,
we wouldn’t see a helicopter crash, so close,
shrapnel flying like a wedding bouquet,
the carriages rolling like a divorce,
eventually leaving Vauxhall for Waterloo,
where the beat of footsteps
cries out for the river,
but is carried underground instead.

Podium Poets Unite!

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be in the final twenty ‘Podium Poets’ in the competition to eventually become London’s first Young Poet Laureate. As I write, the panel of judges are making (or have made) their decisions on who shall make the cut to the final six poets! All of us now eagerly await the result, sat with laptops or smart phones, freshing our email inboxes. With around sixty applications, everyone deserved a massive pat on the back for making it to this stage, purely on the basis of the quality of our poetry.

And quality it was! Apparently there were people there who didn’t normally perform… this was incredibly difficult to tell. Everyone was so amazing on every level; I certainly would find it impossible to narrow down to the final six. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed and whichever way the wind blows, be proud to be part of the Podium Poets. I had such a great day and I also have to be enormously grateful to my work for granting me leave (as I work at a school, non-holiday leave is quite tricky!)

It was really cool to meet other poets and also pretty unbelievable that we didn’t already know each other – an indication, if anything, of how much talent is in London. Here are some of their details so far: Deanna Rodger (who I know from when I started out and who is pretty much a poetry celebrity), Ben Jacobs (who I’m working with at the Writing Room), Sarah Perry, Bridget Minamore, James Massiah, Rosie Knight, Warsan Shire, Sophie RobinsRobert Somynne, Sonority Turner, Mary Akin, Dizz Tate, and Nik Way. We’ve been trying to get in contact via twitter but I’m yet to find some of them.

Anyway, during the beginning of the day we got to know each other, played games and did different exercises. In the afternoon, nerves were distracted by lunchtime conversation, only to return once the judges stepped in the Red Room, at The Albany. We relaxed playing games, and once we got started, I was engrossed in each performance, and my own went by all too-quickly. I was sandwiched between two of my favourite performances (Sarah and Wasan) but I hope that I managed to stand out. Below is a two-part limerick that I wrote during the morning.

Limerick Part I

In Chelsea, there’s a lady of class,
Who evokes etiquette of the past.
But one day whilst complaining
That decorum was flailing
The wind blew and uncovered her arse!

Limerick Part II

This lady, she let out a gasp
When she felt that sudden air blast.
She heard many sniggers,
For she’d forgotten her knickers!
That lady from Chelsea with class!

The Albany is becoming a regular haunt – and I should probably visit Apples & Snakes to get a copy of my Word’s a Stage performance soon! Tomorrow I’m actually heading there for a Writing Room meeting, so that may be a good time. After the day was over, I went to ‘Kid I wrote back’ as planned. I performed ‘Paradise’ again, as well as a few others. I got speaking to David Marshall, and a young girl who I encouraged to take to the mic the next time. It was also good to see Kayo Chingonyi again, as I didn’t realise he was featured. All in all, I wished that every day could be like that day, and maybe if I managed to become Young Poet Laureate for London, that dream could come a reality sooner than I thought.