Hi July!

Firstly, let’s get the slightly embarrassing news out of the way… my poetry workshop had no bookings and got cancelled! It could have been promoted more, as I have been concentrating my efforts on the event (Ram Jam at The Grey horse, on 22nd July) but I spoke to one of the lovely organisers and we thought next year it could either be workshops held in schools (target market) or weekday evenings. Alas, it wasn’t a wasted trip. I dropped more flyers off at the Rose Theatre, I stumbled upon this great band called The Hype Theory playing at Banquet Records – a cool acoustic set with boys on guitars and  a cajón, and amazing vocals from lead singer, Katy Jackson. After the no-show, I collected my festival wristband from the IYAF HQ, and had a free meal from Las Iguanas, with a fantastic service from the manager Jason. I felt like a celebrity, enjoying a Reggae Rumba cocktail, with fajitas, and a chocolate-orange fudge cake for dessert. Something I’m also loving is the emergence of ice-cream parlours in Kingston – Creams and Afters. Maybe my Mum was right after all, and I should set up a business with ice-cream and poetry!

My job is going well, and I’ve been accepted for next year! I’m actually really enjoying working with teenagers – who’d’ve thought?! I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Year 9 students with Kayo Chingonyi, and even got to go to the SLAMbassadors finals, which was the best work day ever! We had the leaving ceremony for Year 11 and I’m really going to miss a lot of them. I’m going to turn down an interview for a job in Norwich; it breaks my heart to but it is much lower paid, and I feel that I’ve got too many commitments in London for the moment.

One of these commitments, and another reason why my work can be so amazing and supportive, is my part in the search for London’s Young Poet Laureate, with Spread the Word. I have been allowed the day off to take part – I was really nervous about asking, because when you work in a school, you can only take time off during school holidays. Tomorrow, they will try to narrow down the competition from nineteen to just six! It should be a fun day and I’m really looking forward it, and would love to even get into the final six, and I think I’d only have one more year to try again. Becoming the first Young Poet Laureate would be a dream come true and an opportunity I would grab with both hands. It would definitely be my big break! Wish me luck!

So far on my journey towards publication has encountered one rejection from Bloodaxe, and a couple of requests for full manuscripts after shorter samples. I was surprised by the speedy response from Bloodaxe, but I shall take the underlining about the quality of the work as a message that it is still amazing. I should also have a piece published in the next issue of DreamCatcher magazine with my new twist on Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz, inspired by the image below, by Matthew Dickerson, as well as my love for Dorothy Parker.

Dorothy

In terms of poetry gigs and stuff, I’ve been to the open mic at Come Rhyme with Me. Kayo was performing alongside Peter Hayhoe and Mike Galsworthy. All the poets were fantastic, the food was delicious (£12.50 for food and poetry!) and the atmosphere was so warm and friendly. Even without Deanna there, Dean Atta produced a wonderful show with his infectious smile and delightful charm. I finished the evening of with a Rumble cocktail and spent the rest of that weekend flyering for the She Grrrowls event on 22nd July. I also got the chance to take part in a workshop with Joelle Taylor as part of the Writing Room – things are really coming together now! I’m gutted I can’t make the Sabrina Mahfouz workshop, but sometimes you have to create balance in your life and I miss my friend who’s up in York! I’m guessing, when I turn 26 I’ll have to stop going to the Writing Room, in which case I’ve got 1.5 years to become a success!

Other cool things I’ve done include seeing Laura Marling at the Grand Eagle Hotel as part of the new Secret Music events, and going to the East London Comic and Art Festival. I had fun dressing up in 1920s attire and exploring different rooms, finding Lindt chocolate and spending time with poet Selina Nwulu in a non-poetry setting. I also have discovered a love for indie comic books, especially Marc Ellerby whose Chloe Noonan comics have a great female protagonist, featuring great artwork and words.

Next up, tomorrow I’m going to eat at Bar Kick and stick around for ‘Kid I wrote back’ which seems like a cool event! I also need to update my events section – oopsie daisy!

xxx

Dean Atta Review

Dean Atta’s ‘I’m Nobody’s Nigger’ (The Westbourne Press, 2013)

Since the book’s title poem went viral, Atta’s debut poetry collection has been much anticipated. Having been a regular feature among London’s poetry scene for many years, it was only a matter of time before he got the recognition he deserved, the recognition poets deserve in general, because it is an exciting time when poetry goes viral. But in my opinion, vival poetry doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should do. I opened the book to the sound of a drumroll. Immediately, I enjoyed the contradictions of language, the juxtaposition of words, and the simplicity that can be read into on so many levels.

Yes, viral poetry doesn’t happen enough, yet Atta’s example shows poetry at its best. It is honest, meaningful and has something important to say. In this poem lies a couplet containing raw commentary on a society where ‘stacking paper cos it’s greater than love it seems/call me ‘nigger’ cos you’re scared of what ‘brother’ means.’ Within this poem there is an undeniable power, and there are more moments than this which get your fingers clicking in appreciation.

As the review in Urban Times stated, the one criticism the collection falls prey to, is not getting the balance between ‘page’ and ‘stage’ quite right. That said, maybe the point is to simply get the word out; Atta’s reputation as a performer means that it would be ridiculous not allow his audience the privilege of reading his work. And like I said, the message he delivers is important. What’s more is that he does it in a way that is not so didactic as to make the reader feel preached upon, and in a way that makes him human; “in arrogance and creativity” he paints a picture of society’s troubles in ‘Fatherless Nation,’ with an awareness of his own shortcomings.

Another major highlight of the collection is ‘Key to the City,’ a modern love story featuring John and Melissa, which twists like a knife as you turn the last page of the poem. With many poems exploring sexuality, ‘More Than This’ stands out as one of the best, with great use of alliteration and carefully chosen words, from the first line ‘I knew, before we’d even spoken’ and the image of a night where ‘mouthfuls of beer dislodge illicit imagery,’ to the last line returning to the title.

‘My Love’ is a great example of where page and stage meet, as the rhymes are timed well and thoughtful, words are packed with meaning and the poems forces you to image Atta performing the piece. It mixes humour with sorrow, in images such as ‘It’s glass half empty/Amaretto on the rocks/A friendly drunk/makes love wearing socks.’ Lastly, the poem ‘Lost in Time’ stands out as it is so relatable; my own mind is vivid with memories of a childhood now past. Atta’s collection tells a story of contemporary society in a patchwork of poems about race, sexuality, culture, class, relationships and even poetry itself. What is so important about Atta’s poetry is that it now exists as what will be a relic of our time.

Poetry Parnassus

On Tuesday 26th June I attended the first day of Poetry Parnassus. Having felt quite confident and happy about going on my way, once I got there I did feel quite overwhelmed. Simon Armitage – one of my first encounters into contemporary poetry at GCSE’s – was standing just a few metres away. There were poets from all over the world; the idea curated by Armitage saw poets flocking from all of the countries competing in the Olympics. This day was the World Poetry Summit. Poets, publishers and other important figures in the world of poetry gathered and I felt a little like I was watching from the margins. I was disappointed only in myself for not taking the opportunity to seek out like-minded people, but still, I did absorb my surroundings and scribbled away at my notepad.

Reflecting on my notes now, I shall summerise some of my thoughts in relation to the day as a whole. My notes are 2,317 words, so I hope to make this much shorter! The first point is one which has people divided. Jude Kelly, the Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre, made a comment about how it is a positive thing that poetry remains uninfluenced by money. She expressed the view that we shouldn’t want to professionalize the arts. Those with more romantic or anarchistic views may agree. However, I think that you have to bear in mind that we live in a Capitalist country and therefore the rules apply that we need money to survive. It would be idealistic to think that we do not. This very statement is contradicted by the fact that the poets and other speakers at this conference are professionals. They have a right to earn money from dedicating their life to poetry.

Though it is just another fact that they must do other things alongside the actual writing of poetry, their work doing these other things (teaching, editing, speaking at events etc.) is informed by this dedication to one field of practice. I agree that accessibility is important, however, it is worth noting I had to pay the full price of £35 for the summit, as apparently I had missed the “limited concessions” price – something which I don’t quite understand as I’m pretty sure I was one of the youngest people there. However, this kind of balanced out when you take into account all the free events I went to today. It is important because I almost didn’t get a ticket because I had to pay full price. I also almost didn’t come to the free events because of travel and my MA work commitments, but I thought this was too significant an opportunity to miss.

I went to half of the talk about poetry and money, and half of the Tradition vs. Innovation talk. The fact that there was a debate about money suggests that the above statement from Jude is not quite a given; she states in this discussion that it is ‘the elephant in the room.’ What is clear is that to be a poet, you must take on other work and Ollie Dawson, the Director of the Poetry School, found that younger poets are more willing in this area. Representing Kenya, poet Shailja Patel spoke out from the audience and told us that in the USA, there is a National Writers’ Union. It helps with issues of copyright, healthcare and so on and seems like a fantastic idea.

Tradition vs. Innovation was good to listen to as I had just been reading Adventures in Form, which is the most interesting book I’ve read since Dorothy Parker’s collected works and has me itching to write more poems. Tom Chivers from Penned in the Margins was involved in the discussion and made the point that they are not actually opposites as they feed into one another and that there is a “spark” when such concepts meet. Hence why this new book from Penned in the Margins is so exciting.

In a discussion about literature in the digital age, Nikola Madzirov spoke about horizontal and vertical dialogues. Thinking the web is more of a… web, so more sporadic than those ideas present, I got a bit confused here. Can anyone shed light on the meaning of this? I thought the work that was being produced could be in danger of being a bit gimmicky, but that the thought of having poets from around the world performing digitally at StAnza also seemed like a unique kind of festival, opening us up to people we may not normally come across, other than on rare occasions such as Poetry Parnassus!

In a conversation about poets finding their way in the 21st Century, Kayo Chingonyi proved to be one of my favourite speakers. He had a clarity, knowledge and passion that was articulated exceptionally well. Though it has to be said that Dean Atta made a delightful statement about wanting to be made into a hologram which made us all smile and chuckle a bit. I also felt I connected to some of what Raymond Antrobus said about there being a difference in writing to yourself and from yourself. My poem, Drama, actually comments upon this dilemma that I have faced as my urge to write in the past has come from a cathartic impulse that seemed only natural to me, whilst I have been over the last few years to perfect it as a craft.

After the provided packed lunch listening to poetry from around the world upstairs, I went to the Poetry & Elitism discussion. Bas Kwakman begins with the statement that ‘political poetry is always bad poetry. Good poetry is always political.’ And so ensues a discussion that (like the Tradition vs. Innovation talk) deals with binary oppositions. In my dissertation for my BA I examined Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis and my distaste for binary oppositions began there. As Taja Kramberger asserted; it is a ‘false dilemma.’ The whole point of elitism is that there isn’t access for the so-called populist, and then the populist itself becomes a different kind of elite, creating yet another hierarchy.

Another one of my favourite speakers, mentioned earlier, Shailja Patel spoke about the fact that there is a common misconception that equates elitism with difficulty, and populist with the political. This was in response to a elite-defender, who, like Bas, seemed to assume that some sort of elite was needed to ensure quality. Oh, the commoners can have their populist/political shit and we can just carry on here with our poetry of superior quality. No. Patel made her points extremely well in the debate, but also actually recited a poem ‘For the Verbal Masturbaters.’ She told us that she never takes free speech for granted as she did not have the privledge growing up. So much of this discussion relies on privilege and, in my view, anyone that defends elitism is a privilege-denier, or just needs to think a bit more.

To end this section, a quote from Taja Kramberger – ‘Poetry: you are not made from words alone.’

 

 

 

 

 

That evening I met up with my old housemate, Kirstie, and we caught poetry that fell down from the sky with the Rain of Poems. It took some time before I got a couple of poems, pictured below. People went crazy and almost physically fought over it, with some people greedily giggling at their hand-fulls. I’ve never seen people so excited about poetry, I thought. Slightly cynical about it, I thought that a lot of people would not treasure the poems as they should. Still, it was very surreal and pretty as they fell and glittered down to us.

Today, Saturday 30th June, I went back to go to more free events. I thought I also may get the opportunity to speak to some others there but didn’t see anyone I knew and didn’t feel I could randomly strike up a conversation with someone else. I first went to WOW (Women Of the World) Breakfast. This was one of my favourite events, and it was FREE! I forgot my notebook today so made just a few pointers in my (non-smart) phone. The discussion about writing from the mind/body brought me back to the idea of binary oppositions and those false dilemmas again. Sadly, I can’t remember the names of anyone to write who said what, but it was disheartening to hear that one visiting poet from Africa has said she was ignored even at Poetry Parnassus. Upon her own success, she was called up and told ‘African women don’t write poetry, it’s for African men.’ There was a man that enthused about the amount of young women with desire to write, as a cry for some positivity. A young woman also made some comments about not feeling ‘hard done by’ and again at the end that she was ‘not fight, just enjoying every word.’ However, I think that by doing just that and nothing else, you are ignoring and placating the wider issues that are a reality that women are faced with all over the world.

I plucked up the courage to ask a question, which thankfully they squeezed in for me. I wanted to know, as a student, since the majority of people who study Literature and take writing courses are women, does this filter out? If so, why… and, do they have a chance at a  level playing field or are they at a disadvantage when it comes to publishing? Picking up on something they said earlier about a need for more female editors, judges and critics, I questioned whether a way forward may be for bloggers to review female books. Some interesting thoughts came out of this, but it still remains to be answered in the future. I got home and found a Facebook comment thread about female writers not submitting enough.

So, part of this may be to do with confidence, and a willingness to take risks and perhaps not possessing enough of the characteristics of being a creative entrepreneur! The career progression from university also needs to be more informative, useful and supportive. Although there are issues with blogging, in that they’re unpaid, I had recently thought that I would LOVE to receive free books if I could review them on my blog. I believe I have a fair amount of readers but it would also be something I could build upon. I have had some experience writing reviews but I would love to do more. Whilst I am still at the beginning of my career I wouldn’t mind sparing some time to read and write about what I love! I may take more of a Dorothy-Parker-esque way of writing about the events, exhibitions and books I experience, but at least I’m honest!

After a small break reading The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry, I went to the Clore Ballroom for some Salt readings. It was good to see Chris McCabe as Tom Chivers had told me about him when I did my internship at Penned in the Margins and I had read some of his work in the latest book I mentioned earlier. He read poems about a meat-book, explaining a Van Gogh painting to his son, and existential clubbing. Kayo Chingonyi has to be mentioned again because he was one of my favourite poets of this day as well! He read poems about how to create a mixtape on the out-dated cassette tape, as well as taking us through the rhythm of his dance. He also seems like a really nice, genuine guy, which always makes me like the poets even more.

Sadly, Death Poetry was full, so I found life outside and read a bit more before going back to the Level 5 Function Room for ‘They Won’t Take Me Alive – Women and Revolution.’ Namechecks to Alaide Foppa, read by Amanda Hopkinson, Gioconda Belli, Chiranan Pitpreecha and Farah Didi. Bidisha also did an amazing job as chair for this and the earlier WOW talk. I was so glad I stayed for it because I learnt a lot and it was wonderful to be able to hear their poetry. They spoke of the ideas of poetry and activism, comparisons to fruit and flowers and images of beauty, and showing the world what injustice there is and moving on to other subjects, how this political voice is at the core of you. I made out about 5 words of Gioconda Belli’s Spanish recital of ‘The Dream Bearers’ which makes me morn for the lost language of my hispanic roots. Still, I have uploaded some free Spanish tutorials on my iPod now.

Wow! So, over 2000 words means I better stop! Full from tapas, and looking forward to Sunday-Tuesday as I celebrate a year of being with my boyfriend 🙂

xxx

New Year; Same You, But With Added Shine, A Slicker Rhyme…

A belated happy new year!  I have just handed in my coursework today and have lots of news to share.  Christmas, by the way, was wonderful – the best ever!  Here’s me celebrating family-style with some of my new clothes (Primari aka Primark).

The first news story is a sad one.  I write this blog for my website but I also post it in other places, and one of these places, Inked-In, is closing down because some company is taking over and wants all the rights to the content.  Totally out of order.  Not happy.  I’ll probably stop writing on there now because I want to have the rights to my content thanks.

Anyway, onward and upward!  I have found an amazing function on Excel that means I don’t have to use this Smartsheet thing I was using that ended up being a free trial and asked me to pay for it.  As if.  So yeah, genius that I am, I figured out you can sort a to-do list on Excel; my list is sorted by the ‘status’ (i.e. whether it’s been started or is complete) then by the due date, and then by a daily ordering system, should I need to do work on something that has a due date way in the future.  It’s not a waste of time either, as I have now completed 44 tasks, and started it maybe a couple of months ago.

For new years eve, Matt and I popped round to my friend Jo’s house for a bit because she now lives about 20 minutes walk away from me!  She used to live in Hammersmith so it’s great she’s so close now.  It took us a bit longer as I took a wrong turn, but good to know for future reference as last time my mum was my taxi.  Jo had fireworks and it was a bit scary but also very pretty and overall, amazing.

Matt and I celebrated our 6 month anniversary on January 2nd at Los Amigos and it was delish.  We also saw a ‘Havana Club’ sign which was cool because we met at a club in Norwich called Havana (now called Kartel).  It was a bit quiet but we had a lovely time.

On that note, I’ll say a little about new years resolutions.  Now, I’m the kind of person that’s always trying to self-improve… a kind of perfectionist, I guess.  So, new years resolutions are something I try to do at various points in the year anyway. That said, my main aims for 2012 are as follows:

– Read more poetry.  Well, read only poetry, aside from non-fiction books used for study, and the occasional fiction book for if I want a break from just poetry.
– Resume my exercise routine.  Try to go to the gym 1 or 2 times a week, and do at least 15 minutes of exercise in the morning before breakfast.
– Keep up a regular beauty regime.  Cleanse, tone, (exfoliate), moisturize.
– The last two points means I need to get early nights.  And wake up early-ish.  If I don’tget enough sleep I get lazy.

And now, for some poetry news.  Firstly, I wanted to say how great it is that Dean Atta has shot to fame, so to speak, after posting ‘I Am Nobody’s Nigger’ online.  As I stated on Twitter, I guess I’ve been “deeply immersed in the world of spoken word,” (quoting The Guardian) because I remember Atta being a regular name since I started out in around 2006.

Not wanting to draw too many comparisons, but, I had previously read Carol Ann Duffy’s Stephen Lawrence tribute poem and been disappointed.  I actually began to have a go myself but am yet to finish it.  I just found her poem too obvious, and lacking emotionally.  And it is a great shame because I have enjoyed Duffy’s work since my GCSEs (though I was disappointed at her reading at the AQA Anthology show).

In terms of my poetry news… I’ve been shortlisted for a £1000 fund on IdeasTap.  My idea may be more suited to another IdeasTap fund I’ve applied for since, and I feel unlikely too get the one I’ve been shortlisted for as it’s quite a long shortlist!  I’ve also been accepted to be a Peer Mentor for Shake the Dust for the Eastern region.  It’ll be really great to give younger poets advice and support, and take part in the regional finals – and I’d love to be a judge!  I probably should have mentioned my judging experience with Scroobius Pip!  It’ll no doubt be a great experience anyway.  I may not have been accepted as a Poet Shadow, but I’ve got the next best thing.  I’ve also applied for the Charles Pick Fellowship at UEA, starting in October.  Thinking about the prospect of being accepted for that excites me too much!  Wish me luck on my endeavours!

xxx