After writing this post, I redrafted a poem from a couple of years ago (something I’m meaning to do with a lot of poems). The act of kindness described in this post made me think of a workshop with Deanna Rodger, where the prompt “what’s the kindest thing you’ve done?” inspired an earlier draft of the poem below. Let me know what you think.
The last kind thing I did was spending
money on something I had no interest in.
I did that for someone else.
Thinking about kindness now,
it’s tied up to money somehow:
an exchange. A smart black suit,
food and bills. After a month
I wanted to raise money for charity,
wanted to run further than I’d been before.
Lately, I’ve felt tension in my back;
weekends and 9-5s do not line up.
Because we all need money, don’t we?
And so it seems, I want my own
gratification more than I want
to help move things forward from this pain.
The other week I wanted to show Bande de Filles aka Girlhood, to 6th Form students in order to get them to come along to the Feminist Club. They had been keen after having Feminista UK coming in to run a workshop with them. Sadly, my efforts at putting colour-posters up, guying popcorn and even buying the DVD specifically to show the film were wasted at this time. It was rather depressing to hear the music at the start repeat in an empty classroom. I guess they’re overworked. And as an English Mentor, I keep giving them extra reading to do as it is!
I’ve been writing for The Norwich Radical for a year now, where I look at the arts through a feminist lens. Girlhood was a film I highlighted for its Feminist credentials. So, I thought this would be an opportune time to highlight the articles I’ve written thus far. You can get a whole list by clicking here.
This time last year I was performing at Larmer Tree festival, and now I’ve just come back from Latitude Festival, where I performed as part of the New Voices. It will be the first of five festivals that I will be performing at this summer, and considering how nervous I was and how surreal it seemed, it went really well.
So, Friday I arrived at the performer campsite after taking a mini-bus after my coach and a nifty little buggy (wasn’t quite so swish on the way back). In the glorious heat, I put up my tent and made my way to the poetry stage. I got there in time to see Charlotte Higgins, another New Voices poet. I loved the way she conveyed such powerful words in her softly spoken manner, and I felt this was even stronger on her Sunday night performance as her passion permeated the audience. Next up was Talia Randal and as she spoke of journeys through London, I immediately wanted to book her for She Grrrowls.
I stepped out to watch the end of Kelis and then Crystal Fighters. I was on my own and feeling a bit lonely and anxious of what lay ahead of me. I ate a Twister lolly that was more expensive than my book, but whilst I have employment, I don’t need to worry about that. Bohdan Piasecki was next up and, being the leader of the Roundhouse Collective, I then felt at home. I stuck around for Peter Hayhoe, Raymond Antrobus and Rosy Carrick’s impromptu set (which I was really happy about, so thanks George The Poet). I saw Andy Bennett, who also made me feel at home, and he gave me his food voucher, which I later spent on chilli with Ray and Hollie McNish. My anxieties were fading away fast.
I was told that Two Door Cinema Club were replaced by Lily Allen, who had already had a secret show slot. I waited too long to find out that the rumours were true. She even did a cover of a TDCC as I was walking away. I used to like her, and I liked ‘Hard Out Here’ as a song, but I don’t think her reaction to racism criticism was positive. Also, I find the rest of the album as a whole a tad boring. But, I do kind of feel I cut my nose off to spite my face and probably would have enjoyed the set. I just feel that as horrible as it is to hear accusations of racism, it is important to engage with that criticism and be open to it,because the complexities of race are just as complex as gender and we all need to learn. Just because someone does something wrong, doesn’t mean that can’t redeem themselves. Anyway, I went back to the poetry tent and watched Andy Bennett and Attila the Stockbroker, ending with Page Match, which was all amazing fun!
Saturday I slumped on a sofa to watch Josie Long, who was brilliant, and I then headed to the Poetry Stage to catch Rebecca Goss. It was incredible to hear her poetry since reading Her Birth. I watched John Osborne‘s New Blur Album for the second time and next it was Luke Wright before me. I was hoping he would do his garage track and he did! I was next up and after expecting to see the crowd dissolve, Rosy had done a lovely job of bigging me up, and there were more people left behind than I expected. The crowd was lovely and I left the stage feeling happy. I sold two books, though when I finally managed to meet my friend despite the lack of phone signal, I was told I forgot to say exactly where I would be. This meant I didn’t meet my friend straight away; I watched Richard Marsh’s show, Wing Man, as I was compelled by the subject matter and wasn’t sure whether my friend was also still in the crowd. I made my way back to my tent, meeting Peter Hayhoe and Dan Cockrill along the way. I shall blame them rather than my brain for not seeing Conor Oberst, who I was told did Bright Eyes songs to and is one of my all time favourite musicians. Still, this is part of the whole surreal experience of Latitude as a performer.
After catching one song from Conor, I watched Chimene Suleyman and then tried to contact my friend, managing to finally get through in time for First Aid Kit. We hung out with her boyfriend and brother (who bought a book – thank you!) and we watched a bit of Bombay Bicycle Club and Catfish and the Bottlemen, who were particularly great live. We saw a bit of Damon Albarn and parted ways. I returned to watch fellow New Voices Ben Norris and Tommy Sissons, Mark Grist and Dizraeli. Ben was on form and the crowd showed their appreciation with a massive queue for his Nasty Little Intro. I had seen Dizraeli years ago, but he was truly phenomenal and his time on stage whizzed by. Beat-boxer, Reeps One ended the show and I left in the middle as the rain started to fall, and after being up talking to poets until 4am the night before, I wanted an early night (in comparison) before my Sunday set.
I wanted to see Michael Rosen, but despite being up hours before, I didn’t leave early enough and the tent was full by the time I got there. Instead I watched Eric Lampaert and Sophie Wu on the Cabaret Arena and I was glad I saw them because I loved them both. I watched RSC: Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again after seeing a bit of Selena Godden. I enjoyed bits of it, but I was insanely tired after having four hours sleep, and had my prescription sunglasses on, so I nodded off now and again. I heard other people saying they didn’t quite understand it all, so maybe it wasn’t the brief few seconds I missed before I jerked awake. It was interesting and quite poetic in its expression. I wanted to see The Molinogroup, but I ended up needing to swap signed copies with non-signed copies of my Nasty Little Intro. On my way back I caught some of the film about Amanda Palmer, which I enjoyed as I’ve loved her since The Dresden Dolls. I then saw Andy Bennett and was excited to hear some of his epic poem, to be published by Nasty Little Press. Luke Kennard was amazing to watch; at first I wasn’t sure what to expect, but he was just as entertaining on the stage as on the page. Next I saw the lovely Deanna Rodger before heading off to watch Parquet Courts who were great. So great, in fact, that a drunken man came on stage thrashing a chair to the floor, jumping around in joy, and left waving his cock at the audience. I wished I wasn’t on my own and tired and standing on the edge rather than in the mosh pit. Oh to be young. I felt very old looking at all the teenagers, despite being told on my return at Tesco in Wimbledon that I looked sixteen.
I walked over to the poetry stage via Woman’s Hour, annoyed at my disappointing noodles, but happy to catch some Roger McGough. I watched Haim who were incredible live, and got ready for my final set whilst watching Lemn Sissay and Jonny Fluffypunk from backstage. I felt nervous again, and I think I built up my expectations and left the stage not feeling as good. I didn’t get a big queue like Ben, but I hold on the the moment where one of the audience members asked for a hug, saying thank you in a way in which it was clear something I said had moved him. I clung onto that to make myself feel better about not selling as many books, not realising how much I wanted people to like me and my poetry and validate me by buying my book. I told myself that this hug was what poetry was all about (and not because he fancied me, Ben!)
I didn’t bother coming out for The Black Keys, and watched James Grady, Tim Clare, Charlotte Higgins, Ben Norris, Raymond Antrobus and Scroobius Pip. I hadn’t seen James before, so it was great to see him. I had seen part of Tim’s show, but seeing a whole hour was fantastic. I got a bit emotional at one point… strangely identifying with Tim’s anxiety but in a very different way as he is more extrovert and I’m more introvert. I’ve said Ray was one of my highlights from that day because he really stepped up the the pre-Scroobius slot and it went perfectly. We all stood up for the final act of the night and enjoyed the familiar spoken word until he was played out with ‘if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.’ I failed miserably at talking to Scroobius Pip, unsure how to say ‘remember when I judged you at that slam…’ a story I regularly drop into conversation when the man in question comes up. Instead I spoke to some merry Northern poets, introduced myself to John Cooper Clarke, and hung out with Ben and Bodhan until I couldn’t face dancing awkwardly anymore, and had an early night at 2am.
I ended my time at Latitude with a 40 minute trek, with my camping gear, trying to find where to get my bus from. The directions were very very poor. I should have waited for a buggy and told it to take me there. I set off at 7.50am and didn’t get on the bus until 9.35am and being the last one on, they weren’t even sure if there was room. ‘Er, that’s my coach, I am getting on,’ I thought. The journey back was fine and I nodded off a bit, unable to read Caroline Bird’s beautiful poetry as I had intended. Overall, it was a brilliant weekend and couldn’t have gone much better! I was so tired each night, I even managed to sleep through thunderstorms. I am truly thankful to Luke Wright and Tania Harrison for putting me on the bill, as well as all the many poets who made me feel part of the family.
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.
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!
So, it’s been an eventful week for me. Since handing in my MA coursework and having my last day of work at Sainsbury’s last Sunday, I have started my new job as an English Mentor at a secondary school in Bethnal Green.
It’s been such an overwhelming experience so far but most of the staff are friendly and the students seem okay, though I won’t start teaching them for a week or so more. My role is a fairly new initiative to improve literacy and GCSE grades, so I’m basically like a tutor for C/D borderline students. Time goes a lot quicker than working at Sainsbury’s and even though I’ve mostly been doing admin stuff, it’s been great to get used to just being there. My week is now over and I’m off to visit my friend Hannah, who has moved to York.
I’ve been glad to have had quite a busy week after school as well! I’ve had a few trips to the post office for eBay, where I’m still selling lots of things at great prices! Other than that, on Tuesday, I went to see my course-mate Lydia Martin’s photography exhibition at Spitalfields. It was called Another Voice That Speaks and was really interesting, so I nabbed some free postcards! I may even use them for inspiration for students to work from, as I think my job is pretty independent – I even have to make my own time table!
On Wednesday I sat in the gardens next to the Museum of Childhood (which I really need to check out!) and finished the Year 7’s text ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ in the sunshine. I thought it was a great book and would like to watch the film. I went to Nando’s and really enjoyed it. I thought I had a bit of time so I had a mini dessert, and I must say, I really recommend the custard tart, yum! I then went along to The Gallery Cafe for some spoken word.
I went on my own, but got to meet Sophia Blackwell, who was lovely. I found out that not only is she an amazing poet, but she works at Bloomsbury Publishing! It got my thinking about my career path and that maybe I’d like to get back on that track at some point, since doing an internship during uni at Penned in the Margins.
Deanna Rodger started off as the support for the event, ran by Apples & Snakes. I think I recognised some poems, but I hadn’t seen her in… it must be years. I was pretty surprised when she said she had been doing this for about 6 years, as that means she started out at the same time as me! I need to up my game! I really enjoyed her set and thought the whole even had a great range of poets. I love her rawness and emotional expression. I know she has connections with the theatre, and I have seen a lot of people over-act poetry, but Deanna makes none of those mistakes and is so natural and holds a lot of truth in the words she delivers.
The next was Ronnie McGrath, who I’d never seen before. I loved the way he transported me to the ’60s, the way he played with sound and the strength of meaning. I hadn’t seen anything quite like it, and I also thought it was cool that he read from the page, because it just shows you that you can still give an amazing performance without knowing it all off by heart!!
The headliner was Buddy Wakefield. I had only just heard of him and listened to some recordings on Spotify and since he was performing near my new work, I thought it would be unmissable. And it was. I’m so glad I went. His performance had both strength and vulnerability. Tragedy and comedy. Ramblings and retelling. And glitter. Plus, an ad-lib finale with a beatboxer from the crowd, and McGrath on vocals. There was a reference to giving a pencil to a man in prison, and him putting it in his pocket. Some people laughed and I just didn’t get it, so that’s been niggling me because I feel a bit stupid! There was just so much in the performance, and yeah, it was ‘heavy’ but I like that. I wished others could have experienced it. I wish I could fill up a bottle of it and send it over seas to share it. I wish the recordings were enough. But they’re not. So, if you ever get the opportunity again, go see him! And it only cost £4!
He hadn’t toured in a while, and it was all rather emotional. It felt so good to be there. So, fantastic things like this happening provide yet another reason to live in Bethnal Green, or round abouts that area. Sorry, Worcester Park, you are not culturally stimulating and I don’t know if you ever will be.