It’s been a few weeks since I posted, so three more episodes of Carmina’s Cantata have been released – featuring Belinda Zhawi aka MA.MOYO, Tongue Fu’s Chris Redmond and the multi-faceted Joshua Idehen. It was great to catch up with Belinda, who I know from BARPo days, in Chris’ episode we are treated to a live ukulele track, and Joshua’s episode is the perfect blend of humour and vulnerability.
I’ll be having my last in-person ukulele lesson today. Perhaps I will continue in future, but for now I’ll make do with what I’ve learnt so far and dedicate the time to practice. I’m finding it hard to get to the G7 chord, and my little finger keeps sticking out, but I’ve found it really helps to play songs I know and love like Hallelujah. Ooh, I’ve also started reading my music books, so I can do a bonus episode at the end about my findings!
People always misunderstand me, because I’ve got such a rare personality type.
This is kind of a joke, but I’m also deadly serious.
Sometimes even my humour hits a brick wall with people who don’t know me well. I’m quite a serious and reserved person, but that doesn’t mean I can’t let my hair down and have a laugh too.
Less than 1% of the population are INFJs. After feeling misunderstood so much as a teenager, the fact that it hasn’t stopped there has meant finding out my personality type has offered some explanation as to why that might be. If not a lot of people are like me, then how can they totally understand me?
Some people don’t like labels, and sometimes I even resist depending on who is saying it. I’ve often felt sensitive about being called an introvert, or shy, or quiet. So much so that I’m wanting to write something about these things. The idea got long-listed and high commended for the Sky Arts Scholarship once, so it’s something I definitely want to pursue. So as much as I identify as an introvert or whatever, any comment from people I don’t know that well having noticed something, and because of our society’s often negative depiction of those who are this way inclined, I can get a bit defensive.
Sometimes being an INFJ feels like being a mass of contradictions. Although I don’t like conflict, I do get angry about things and vocalise that anger when I feel I’m able to do so. This means the people I’m closest too don’t see that anger as a surprise, but why I once had a colleague who found it very funny when I would go on my little rants about someone who’d irritated me, or something that had irked the feminist part of me. When I was younger, I maybe tended to be more agreeable, but I’m now very opinionated and decisive about things, so as much as I might agree with certain things, sometimes it can be “my way or the highway”. Reading through the description, which can often seem very complimentary, and the notion that it’s a “rare” personality type can mislead you into thinking there’s something elevated about being an INFJ. But we have flaws like anyone else, and as much as being altruistic, caring and supportive is important to us, getting riled up and fixating on particular expectations can mean upset for both parties when there’s a conflict.
One of the things that got me interested in exploring my affiliation with this personality type, was a Burn After Reading workshop on projected identities. Because at different points I may project different things, and people will make assumptions based on that. Because I’m able to communicate well the more I know people, and have learnt to adapt to situations where I’m with strangers, I find the acquaintance-friend gap really hard to get my head around and sometimes I worry about coming across rude, simply because I find certain situations hard to navigate. If I don’t expect to see someone in the street, I may pretend not to see them, or if someone calls but I’m focused on something else and unprepared to talk, I might screen the call and get back to them. Not because I intend to be rude, but I just find it very difficult to handle.
There is so much more to say about the INFJ, as with all personality types, but I just wanted to highlight a bit about the type and why we can often feel misunderstood.
Today, in case you hadn’t heard, is National Poetry Day. I’m feeling like a bad poet because I’m not attending any events to mark the occasion. At the most, I’ll probably watch and listen to all the stuff that’s happening online, trying to understand the mixture of pride, envy and joy at watching/listening to poetry by my peers featuring on national television and radio.
As I write this, I’m on my way back from my day job, where I work as an Academic Mentor for English. This morning I played Year 10 ‘Origin Story’ by Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, whilst trying to convince them to come to my Creative Writing Club. This is something I will do again no doubt, and in fact, I ended my day going into a class to hand out letters with permission slip. One student took one. There are currently two members in my club. Replacing First Story is going to be harder than I thought. But still, it’s early days. Last year, two Year 8 students – a boy and a girl – made their own version of ‘Origin Story’ and, along with my new Feminist Group, my main goal this year is to make this a success.
That goal applying to my day job. By night, I used to be able to go to events like National Poetry Day Live at the Royal Festival Hall, which is where I was this time last year. However, tonight I will be largely writing an assignment for a CELTA course I’m studying part-time. This means I’m doing two 13 hour days each week (because, you know, full time job), plus attending some Saturdays. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I rise at 6.30am and go to sleep at 11.30pm. On top of this, I have to do these assignments, thoroughly plan lessons for the course, observe others teaching, and be observed myself… By five people (I was less than happy when informed I’ll be observed twice in my day job too, but hey, I should be used to it, at least!)
Tonight I’ll also try to fit in a rehearsal for a poem I’m performing on Saturday night (details below), and if I’m lucky, I can work on the poem I started writing last night when I should have been sleeping.
If I sound like I’m being negative, I am. I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder, plus some mild symptoms of depression. I’ve had six weeks on CBT, and been offered to take part in a trial. However, I find it too stressful to go to my “local” service provider, so we’ll see what happens with that. Sometimes it just feels like another thing to tick off the to-do list.
All-or-nothing thinking: I’m not on TV, I’m a failure as a poet.
Overgeneralisation: This can be really bad, it’s like when things pile up so much that one thing sets off a continuous stream of negative thinking and it’s like there’s no way out. These days are usually a write-off, and the best thing is forced relaxation and an early night.
Mental Filter: I hate making mistakes, so whenever this happens, or if I say something stupid, I will thinking about it constantly for multiple days. Sometimes if I feel like I’ve been talking “too much”, I have to just not say things I think of saying because I overthink what I say so much.
Disqualifying the Positive: I guess this one is similar to number 6, but my parents’ support probably best explains this.
Jumping to Conclusions: a/ Mind Reading: I haven’t heard from members of my poetry collective; they must not like me anymore. b/ Fortune Teller Error: If there’s a slight indication of a problem I have to nip it at the bud. This is probably how this one manifests itself as I worry about the outcomes of things so much that I do everything I can do to prevent the disaster in my head to the extent that I don’t seem to care how others perceive me in that time, until afterwards when I feel immense paranoia about how I’m viewed.
Magnification or Minimisation: Like I said, links to 4, but I will focus on not being picked for one thing, and minimise the success of other things, such as recently being emailed about an opportunity linked to a project that saw my poetry played at the Southbank Centre, where the individual described a new poem I sent as”Visceral and shattering. Hard to hear but necessary.”
Emotional Reasoning: For this one, I guess it’s mostly in terms of relationships with other people. I find it hard to keep up with my friends because of lack of time, and distance with certain people, but they’re so important to me. However, when I don’t hear from people, I assume because I feel sad about it that they’re not as bothered about seeing me.
Should statements: There was something in the book that was a bit of a revelation. By expecting too much of myself, I obviously end up exhausted and unable to keep up, but in turn I also place those same expectations on others and I become “bitter and self-righteous” when they are not met. This was something I realised was really harmful to my relationships with others. Communication is the key here.
Labelling and Mislabeling: I feel like I don’t do this as much, but it could be because it can be quite subtle in a way. The automatic thought of “I’m so stupid” etc. is so familiar that it’s hard to even be conscious of it. The last time I did this, I cried and felt bad on my journey home from my Gran’s, where I’d stayed with my boyfriend, as I’d left chicken and fish bones in the bin because I didn’t know where to put it outside.
Personalisation: This happened on a project where everyone was so positive about it, but the person I was working with said they couldn’t wait until it was over. I took their honesty as being about me, and saw it as a failure, when really they had a lot more going on that was nothing to do with me.
I hadn’t intended this to be so long, but this seems to be what happens… I write nothing for ages and then ramble on for so long that people will inevitably get bored before the end! But if you’re still with me… I guess my point is that I have been feeling disappointed in my progress within the world of poetry, but that part of me knows that I need to enjoy the journey rather than be so focused on an essentially imaginary end-point. I’ve been working on overdrive since I started working full-time, to the point where I don’t know what a normal existence looks like. Now I’ve taken on this CELTA course, I know that I won’t be able to participate in the poetry world as much as I would like to… including my beloved Burn After Reading events (now on Mondays) and The Writing Room Presents… Jawdance (Wednesdays). Recently, I wanted to take more care of myself. My goal was to give myself the time that normal people have to unwind, to make it Sundays. But, I need my Sundays now to work as I have such little time to do so otherwise. Maybe a New Years Resolution then.
I was inspired by one of my tutors on the course, who now works freelance. This was my aim over three years ago, and I’m now making plans to launch my career properly. I’ve been performing my poetry for nine years now. I count it from my first open mic’ event, and why not? There are poets out there who have achieved more than me and haven’t even been doing it a year! Is that the negative voice talking? Maybe.
Anyway, my plans – or my hopes – for the future are to use this CELTA course to live abroad for around a year, a year and a half. I then hope to come back having saved enough money to move out of my parents’ house (that was why I’ve been in this job for so long) and buy myself some time. I’ll try to get some part time work that will allow me the flexibility to truly focus on my passion. I’m hoping that with time to devote to my artistic practice, that I will start enjoying the journey more. I’m also hoping that my travels will allow me some perspective that I simply can’t seem to get when I’m exhausted on the 7.25am train towards Waterloo. And as fellow poet Sophia Walker pointed out, that other than just thinking about what I can offer the countries I go to, they will also have much to offer me and I will grow as a writer and as a person in ways I won’t know now.
So, these will be the last few things I’m up to this year, but I reckon it’s the max I can afford to do time-wise:
-Feminism in London Evening Party
-Working on a Burn After Reading project
-An event on Superheroes and Supervillians
-Homeless Not Hopeless event
Hopefully I’ll catch some weekend events and open mic nights, and, of course, there’ll be She Grrrowls… I don’t want to end it so soon, so maybe I’ll do a January goodbye party… I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be going, but January seems like a good time for a bon voyage!
Okay, I can’t quite end it there. Here are some nice things to look at for National Poetry Day:
Selina Nwulu won the prize for Young Poet Laureate for London. Since working with her on Word’s a Stage (Apples and Snakes), we’ve shared pre-poetry food, post-show feminist discussions and dressed up in 1920s gear to see Laura Marling. She’s a fantastic poet, has featured at She Grrrowls, but is also such a lovely person. Representing the shy girls!
It’s been a long time since I wrote my poem Paradise, and nearly a year since I won first place in the Poetry Rivals competition. The poem was inspired by the No More Page 3campaign, placing judgement on society, the newspaper, and not on the models.
Thanks to all those involved with Poetry Rivals, including host and mentor Mark Grist, judges Hollie McNish, Mixy and Tim Clare. A massive thanks to those at Poetry Rivals HQ who have had to put up with my emails, drawing out the filming with ideas of parks, fish and chips shops and newsagents. There was a moment where my local newsagents from my childhood may have been involved, but to my relief, they stopped responding (more on that when I write my one woman show!) Thanks also then go to the Roundhouse for being able to film the poem there. Lastly, a big thanks to Guy Larsen for his fantastic filming.
If you liked this poem, please buy a copy of my poetry pamphlet from Nasty Little Press. There are other poems too, and you might like them. It’s signed, limited edition and just £2. Themes touch on topics such as multiculturalism, education, love, the pursuit of happiness and having a digitally native childhood. Or else come to a gig; my next performance is at the Festival of Ideas as part of Open Generation on Saturday 11th April. I’ll bring some books along so you don’t have to pay P&P.
Monday 11th August (18:00-20:00) at The Albany, Blue Room
POETRY AND ACTIVISM: WHAT’S THE ISSUE WITH “ISSUE” POETRY?
With Carmina Masoliver
Poetry can be a means to tackle different issues: areas where we feel there’s injustice, raising awareness about something that deserves more attention, or ﬁnding a way to produce activist art. However, a problem may emerge from writing about topics such as sexism, racism, homophobia, and so on, in that the poems become too obviously ‘issue poems’ and may appear to an audience too clichéd or didactic. How do we avoid this in our poetry? How do we make sure that what we produce is still a poem, and not just a rant? This workshop aims to explore the ‘issue poem’ and to understand how we make the ‘issue’ go away.
Poet, writer and performer, Carmina Masoliver also mentors, tutors, facilitates workshops and organises events. She runs ‘She Grrrowls’ arts nights and edits the ‘Poetry&Paint’ anthology.
If you’re interested in attending any of these, email Jacob (firstname.lastname@example.org). You’ll then receive confirmation. There are other great workshops running that week by other Burn After Reading members, all taking place at The Albany.
Tuesday 12th August: 18:00-20:00— Language and Innovation with Cameron Bray
Wednesday 13th August: 18:00-20:00— ‘You Bring Out The Black Woman In Me’ with Rachel Long
Thursday 14th August: 18:00-20:00— Form and Structure with Lewis Buxton
Friday 15th August: 17:00-19:00— Physical Poetry: Exploring Ways of Using the Body in Poetry with Sophie Fenella Robinski
I’m thrilled to announce that this July I will be publishing a mini-book of work as an part of the ‘Intro’ series with Nasty Little Press. In 2011/12 I completed an MA in Creative Entrepreneurship (aka Survival Guide for Artists) and one of the goals I wrote done specified getting a pamphlet published by Nasty Little Press, so… two years later, life feels pretty unreal right now. The books have just come through for me to number and sign – they are a limited edition print of 200 and cost just £2 and will be available to by online and in person.
Under the ‘Stage’ section of goals in my Arts Plan, after ‘organise my own series of poetry events’ was ‘perform at Latitude’. Through dreaming big and planning pragmatically, I am slowly making steps with my ambitions.
So, this summer I am extremely excited (and a bit terrified) to be performing at a total of four festivals. First up is Latitude, where I will be performing a mixture of old and new work as a New Voice at 2pm on the Saturday, and 8.30pm on the Sunday on the Poetry stage. Since winning the 16-25 category of Poetry Rivals, I will also be performing an hour long set at Secret Garden Party at 5pm on the Sunday at the new Amphitheatre stage. Everyone is free to come and go within that hour (except my boyfriend).
Then I’ll be heading to Camp Bestival and Bestival as part of Roundhouse Poetry Collective of 2013-14. This was also listed in my Arts Plan as a goal. At Camp Bestival the collective will performing on Guardian Literary Institute stage (5-6pm) and The Den Stage (Saturday 11am-12pm), and at Bestival you will find us in the The Amphitheatre. Although only a couple of poets photographed on the websites are actually in the collective, we will soon be officially launching ourselves out there, equip with a new name, and hopefully some promotional photographs. We will be performing our final showcase at the Roundhouse on Wednesday 20th August.
Last weekend it was WOW festival at the Southbank Centre. I got a weekend pass, despite being at work on the Friday and having lots of poetry things to do (events and workshops with the Burn After Reading Collective and the Roundhouse Collective). On Friday I also got the chance to go to ‘Poetry Live!’ I felt the same as I did when I was younger, and the teachers and pupils felt the same; Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke are great on page, but I’m not keen on their delivery style, and I felt it really didn’t cater to a young age group, where some things would need explaining further in order to know what they were talking about. It picked up with Simon Armitage, and I tried to enjoy Imtiaz Dharker amongst the other noisy school children in my row. Grace Nichols and John Agard were the favourites, and Benjamin Zephaniah wasn’t there as a surprise guest like when I was at school.
I went to a discussion between Jude Kelly and actress Maxine Peak, which centred around the world of acting but branched out. It was really interesting and I think it was there where we vowed to complain more actively about the things we don’t like, for example the lack of women on panel shows. I’m going to have to start adding letters of complaint and to my ever-growing to-do list as it is a simple way to be active, and if enough people did it, it could make a change. Meanwhile, the odd tweet will help things along.
I met up with Ruth, a fellow Burn After Reading poet, and we watched a bit of Lyrically Challenged before making our way to The Gallery Cafe. I felt each performer got better as it went along, and I preferred them when they had the musical backing as I thought it suited their style more and they were stronger together. The beats in the background added to the rhythm of their voices working together.
I was sad to miss the first session of the day, and the first talk I went to was ‘Cyber Bullying’. I was disturbed and upset seeing Caroline Criado-Perez’s slideshows of abusive tweets; the violent language, misogyny and clear threats (e.g. posting her address) and hearing about Ava Vidal’s having had lynch threats, and online abuse turning physically threatening and having to run for her life. I came to this talk because I work at a school, and what I thought is that I need to explore language more with my students and not just tell them things are wrong. The sad thing is, these conversations are increasingly being seen as ‘dead time’ and my role exists purely to help students get their C-grades. After finding out that it is mostly young girls that use words ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ against each other casually, it has made me feel it is my duty to weave in some Feminism into my lesson plans somehow. In terms of how to deal with cyber abuse, the jury is out. It is about judgement, how much time you have and your mental and physical capacity to engage. Sometimes you need to respond directly, other times you should ignore and respond only on a platform such as a blog like this, and other times, for your own sanity, you need to ignore it. Useful campaigns may take place on Twitter (too large a force to boycott unless a viable alternative is presented, after all, women leaving Twitter will just mean that we are silenced in another area of our daily life), such as #twitterallowsabuse and #twitterissexist so that we can spread awareness and show Twitter negatively for not being active enough (for example, not providing evidence in court cases).
The next talk I went to was ‘In the Classroom’ where a panel of 11-17 year olds were in conversation with a teacher from Mulberry School (sounded so much better than my school). Although it was horrible to hear how prevalent sexual harassment is in schools, it was inspiring to hear such young women participate in Feminism. I asked a question about the dangers of some of the girls where I work wearing the hijab, less for religious reasons, and more for its confusion for being about modesty, with girls saying they see it as a uniform they put on so that boys don’t think they are ‘bad’, therefore as a way of disuading them from sexually harassing them. This idea reinforces the virgin/whore dichotomy and the misogynistic misconception that a woman is ever “asking for it” with what she wears. I was afraid of asking the question, in case Aneesa thought I was assuming anything about her own reasons for wearing the hijab, but she responded with an articulate plea to show girls that they can be whoever they want to be, and to explore issues within relationships between boys and girls.
Lastly, I went to the highlights, where poet Anthony Anaxagorou made a great point about the hierarchy of offensive comments in schools in terms of how they are dealt with. It made me reflect on my own actions and how even as a woman an a feminist, I haven’t treated the sexist comments as seriously as racist or homophobic comments. The ‘why’ is certainly something to think about here, and partly goes along with the idea that if you complain about sexism, it wouldn’t be taken as seriously by SLT etc. which is an unfair assumption. In the same way, some of us seem to accept comments like the ones made from Dappy on Celebrity Big Brother (I had heard about this stuff but I hadn’t actually seen any until now); we complain about it on various social media, but often the action that is needed is not taken because of this hierarchy that Anthony was talking about.
Although I think Anthony is great (check out his political night Out-Spoken), I wasn’t sure about his comment about ‘where do boys go?’ in relation to Feminism, because I believe that they need to learn through Feminism so they know that it is not something that is against them, but it is something that fights for their right to be who they are and who they want to be. I highly recommend this book after seeing Michael Kaufman a couple of times: The Guy’s Guide to Feminism. There are also more books that could be useful in terms of this discourse. That said, I agree it’s not so easy to find, because when you type in “men and feminism” into Amazon, you need to decipher the useful books from the misogynistic ones (and the ones that say they aren’t, but are). Maybe the lack of these books is because of social conditioning, some men only seem to care about these issues when they are about men, for instance, when texting my friend he said he would be interested in going to Being a Man at Southbank, but not Women of the World… whilst I was more interested in BAM than my boyfriend. #whataboutthemenz
Caroline Bird also gave us an insight into the Under-10 Feminists group, which sounded fabulously inspiring, and Shami told us of the importance of legal aid, from her talk ‘State Failure: Human Rights Principles’. There really is too much to include in one post, so I must highly recommend both BAM and WOW.
A quick note of what I was able to go to on Sunday before I went to my poetry workshop. I decided to attend the Funny Women comedy workshop. It was very popular and I didn’t get to share anything, but as much as it would have been good to get up in front of everyone in terms of totally getting out of my comfort zone, the women who did were great and I spoke to a few nice people, including Lynne Parker (the workshop leader) and the stall holders downstairs. Then I went to the workshop/discussion on body image – The Personal is Still Political #ownyourbody. Here I found that 35% of girls have dieted by the age of SEVEN. Not only is the age shocking for anyone, but from someone who has never dieted, it is even more so. But, perhaps most women will find that confession about myself shocking, considering that 9/10 women diet. That said, the biggest reason for me not dieting is not because I have amazing body confidence, but because I like chocolate too much and I have always known it’s stupid and ineffective (93% of dieters regain the weight). Eating disorders also have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness; girls and women are literally starving themselves to death. In this talk, I spoke to a lovely woman who I regretted not keeping in contact with as I went off. It was a weekend of honesty, and despite the statistics and evidence, sometimes you just need some human encounters.
Listen Softly London
My next gig is on Wednesday 19th March at Listen Softly London: Take Stock – A Celebration Of Pen Wielding Women, where I will be performing alongside Sara Hirsch, Ollie O’Neil, Fran Lock and Loren Kleinman. I will be bringing my best Feminist poetry to explore issues of body image, gender roles and rape culture. I haven’t blogged in ages and this has taken me over two hours to write, so I am going to post away and hope to see you next week!