Carmina’s Cantata #18

The final poet interview is out in the world, and it ends on a bang with Brigitte Aphrodite! As a lover of a good chinwag, this is also the longest episode in the series. Still to come in a special episode where we hear from my maternal nan and grandad, as well as one of me discussing the research I’m doing over the next month or so!

I’m picking up the uke when I can, and have been having a go at Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’. I quite like it, though I’m still struggling with getting my fingers to and from the G-chord! I’m going to have a busy summer, and hope for more days where I can spend any rest time between the busyness in parks researching with my little pile of books.

05.03.22

Saturday 5th March 2022 – She Grrrowls: The Festival at The Albany, Douglas Way, London SE8 4AG, 10am-11pm

Carmina Masoliver Presents

She Grrrowls: The Festival

Saturday 5th March 2022

The Albany, Douglas Way, London SE8 4AG

All day: 10am – 11pm

A programme of performances, workshops and talks highlighting local artists as part of Lewisham’s Borough of Culture award in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Through the theme of ‘joy and healing’, you can expect to take part in relaxing sound baths, energetic dance and performance classes, dynamic writing workshops and discussions, creative visual activities, and performances of dance, music and spoken word poetry.

Featuring:

C.O.T.U. and

Lateisha Davine Lovelace-Hanson

Zoca Fitness

Bam Bam Boogie’s Twerk After Work™

Laila Sumpton’s SHEroes of Lewisham

Belén L.Yáñez’s Nora’s Project

The Class Work Project

Grounded Movement

BORN::FREE

Variety D

Demi Anter

Laurie Ogden

Red Medusa

Jamie Hale

Annie Hayter

Antonia Jade King

Marianella López Marrero

Access:

The venue is step-free. There will be BSL interpreters and audio description available. Captioned evening performances 7-11pm. For full details email: shegrrrowls@gmail.com

www.shegrrrowls.com

@shegrrrowls

Buy tickets from The Albany Box Office, online at http://www.thealbany.org.uk or call 020 7525 2931.

£17.50 for full day/ £12.50 concessions, individual events £7/5.

Logos:

She Grrrowls, Quiplash, ACE, CRIPtic, Lewisham Council: We Are Lewisham, Spread the Word, The Albany

Event photography and film by Ibizo Lami.

Freelance Reflections #62

Although there are some days where the schedule goes awry, I have been really pleased with how my day are going when I am able to do things the way I want to. I’m awaiting details of a new daytime student, and it looks like there will be some flexibility. So, generally, my days will start with a morning of Duo Lingo with breakfast, exercise, content writing, and lesson planning. I’ll do some language learning before lunch, then practise the ukulele. Then I’ll have time to work on funded creative projects (currently music and event production) and unfunded creative projects, before then tutoring most of my students. After dinner, and on Sundays, my aim is to only do relaxing, fun things! Although, I have also started learning Turkish on Thursdays! Last night, I ended up getting this takeaway that was basically just a ready meal you had to heat up yourself! It was good, but… strange!

I did also take part in an Arvon online workshop about Performance in Communities, which involved taking these close-up images in my kitchen. On Instagram, I recently shared some books from Burning Eye Books, who unbelievably didn’t get funding and so really need people to buy books and donate! At the last check, they had about 10 copies of each of the books below, so if lots of people bought those books that’s £100 a pop between the poet and publisher.

Last week, I was very thankful to find out that my ACE application for the She Grrrowls Festival on Saturday 5th March this year has been successful! So, each day I’m working on this project a little, as well as my music project. I’ve not announced it officially yet, so this is a bit of an exclusive! Now, I just need my application to do an MA in Art Psychotherapy to go through! I don’t know whether it’s a build up of anxiety, but my skin is super itchy again, like in October. So, it’s good to be busy in the day, but by night it can be more of a struggle to stay asleep with the constant urge to scratch, even with medication! Hopefully it’ll kick in soon.

Freelance Reflections #54

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:

  1. I enjoy going for a bike ride far more than using it as a way to commute.
  2. 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.
  3. It is only marginally quicker than walking, and I don’t even get to listen to music and podcasts.
  4. I feel so anxious before and during, that after my hands ache from holding the handlebar so tight.
  5. 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.

Freelance Reflections #53

Tomorrow I’m back at Between the Bridges for a special LGBT+ events, representing the bisexuals, with books including poetry about relationships with women (Circles) and men (the others). I hope I do better than last time with sales! I’ve also invested in some table clips and different display units. The weather over the weekend looks pretty average, but hopefully some sunny intervals will bring the footfall.

This week I have been thinking about what I can do to create more balance and be more fulfilled in what I do with my time. I feel like I could be close to burnout or become ill if I don’t do something different to protect my free time. After dinner, I’m going to have wind down time, meaning my language learning will be earlier in the day and alternate between Spanish and Turkish. I am also going to cut down on content writing, as it is the least fulfilling work I do, and this will allow me to actually work on the creative projects that are also work (i.e. based on funding, they are equal priority), and I even might find some time then to do the many creative things I want to do that aren’t linked to money! This will also mean I will have less time over weekends that I have to do, so I can do what I really want to do… chill out, read books and magazines, watch films, or just generally do whatever I want to re-energise!

In other news, recently I also got a bike for commutes to students, and I went out to build up my confidence. Typically and ironically, I think I did something to the gears that made the chain loose, and just after having built up the confidence to go on the road, in the pouring rain, thinking back to when I did the same whilst travelling in Laos, and as soon as I turned in towards the pavement, I skidding off the bike, and landed on my thigh and elbow. I tried to fix the chain, but I fell off again. No nobody stopped to see if I was okay, but some guy did shout out from a van, ‘What a hand?’ I saw them smirk as they drove off…

In more cheery news, this week has been very eventful in terms of social stuff too. I was in the live audience for Life & Rhymes, hosted by Benjamin Zephaniah, featuring Lemn Sissay, Salena Godden, AP Staunton, and two young poets I didn’t know about, Y.A. Poet and Simply Sayo, who were all great in their own unique ways. I also went to Crystal Palace International Film Festival on Thursday and one of my favourite films was ‘A Piece of Cake’, so I bought these silver balls as a reference when I went to see my boyfriend last night after watching ‘The Guilty Feminist Live’ at Southbank. Lastly, keep an eye out for events in Hastings, as I’ll be at the film screening on 24th and this Poetics event on 25th September.

Freelance Reflections #47

Mainly a reminder this week that this Sunday 4th July, I’ll be performing a new piece for children, alongside Simon Mole and Gecko, at 12pm and 3pm at Stephen’s House and Gardens in North London. I know it by heart now, but will I be able to do it in front of a live in-person audience? I might trial it with She Grrrowls tonight, which is on Instagram at 6pm tonight (in about 20 minutes as I write this!)

I also came third place in the E.H.P. Barnard Poetry Prize, judged by Sarah Smith and presented by Tom Neill, winning £50! I’m really chuffed with myself. You can hear the winning poem online. I’ve found out a teaching placement I have is going to continue with more hours in September, so I’m pleased about that, as coming home for lunch is probably more tiring than going from A to B. I’ve also started going to a Spanish conversation class on Thursdays, so it’s a pretty jam-packed day!

Freelance Reflections #25

I think writing these reflections on a weekly basis should allow me some time to actually pause and think: what have I done this week? Often I make being “productive” a priority and aside from the daily grind and socialising (even if it just video calls and walks in the park for now), I often don’t feel creatively fulfilled. Aside from the importance of certain issues going on in the publishing world right now, I’ve been thinking about the idea of six-figure salaries being made through art, or even salaries close to the mark. It feels so far removed, and as much as I want to shake off the idea of the “struggling artist”, the idea of money and art is something that gets even more messy in my head when you start to combine it with ideologies like feminism, as well as subject matters like grief. Yet, here I am below, promoting my piece Circles for the Living Record Festival, trying to act like I’m talking to someone in the bar. I can be a pretty awkward person sometimes, so maybe it is realistic enough!

Being born into capitalism, valuing ourselves does seem to be linked with monetary value. Even as I’m writing this, I feel like I’m not valuing myself enough. I’ll use self-deprecating humour as a defence mechanism. I worry that I’m not putting the time into my art and creativity partly because of capitalism and chasing after the money (even if it only pays 3p per word), but also because I’m not believing in myself enough. I like my work, and I think it’s also getting better, yet even receiving compliments on it feels surprising.

Circles is new to the world, but for me, it’s something I’ve been holding onto for a long time, and this is part of me letting it go. I want to give myself the time to work on my other creative projects, whether they see the light of day or not. I’m slowly working on a new collection of poems that I feel is pamphlet length, a kind of memoir that even if I published under a different name would still contain too many identifying features, and a spoken word show that has been way too long in the making.

For now, I’m going to try my best to promote this show, as a celebration of what I have created, knowing that however many people it touches, it is important to someone else other than me. I remember reading the piece when I supported Sabrina Benaim at London’s Bush Hall. It was incredible to see the mass of people watching live poetry, but also felt great that audience members also appreciated my work, whether they bought my book or cried during my piece, hopefully allowing them to heal a little. In me letting this piece go, I hope others will be able to let go some of their own pain, whether from grief or lost love.

Freelance Reflections #2

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Another couple of weeks have passed, so I thought I’d write a bit about what I’ve been up to during this time. I’ve not been earning much the last few weeks for a number of reasons. Time has been taken up with family celebrations for both Easter and a cousin’s hen party. Secondly, the majority of my time has been taken up with planning workshops that won’t even nearly cover my costs in terms of the amount of research and planning that I’m doing. I’m also planning a book tour for She Grrrowls, which I will be attempting to get funding for so that it can go ahead.

I attended the Out-Spoken Press Prize and I really enjoyed all the incredible poetry there and avidly Tweeted about it. I was feeling pretty shy and anxious that night, but I said hello and/or well done to around five people, so I didn’t feel so bad. I’d been long-listed for the performance category, but I didn’t make the shortlist, so felt it was important for me to attend, resisting the urge to hibernate. She Grrrowls was a couple of days later and the turn out was much better than the last two (though still not enough to cover my costs) – it was a really lovely evening as always and I enjoyed it as much as a headless chicken can enjoy such a night.

So, this week I’ve been trying to work as much as possible, but I did manage to schedule a day with my friend and artist Natalie Cooper (she did the illustrations inside the She Grrrowls anthology). She introduced me to Salsa 98.1 (I like to listen to Spanish/Latin music when content writing), cooked me a Cuban-inspired dish with kidney beans, and provided me with tea. I wrote some of my spoken word show It’s Always the Quiet Ones without getting too distracted by the music, so felt really pleased with my production levels!

On Saturday I facilitated the first workshop as part of The Femme Canon monthly series with Spread the Word at The Albany. I really enjoyed it and the participants were not only insightful in their readings of the work we covered, their reading voices were delightful, and their poetry was incredibly powerful. I’m looking forward to the next one and although I have all my own materials at the ready, I have asked participants to send me a poem of their choice to make the workshops a little bit more collaborative. With that in mind, if you’re reading this, please feel free to comment with your own favourite writers who are women or non-binary.

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I’m really excited about my Saturdays, even though I’m working a lot of them! On 28th April I’m running a one-off workshop with The Poetry School aimed at writers wanting to develop work for the page who regularly perform their work. I’ve also got a few sessions where I’m covering someone as part of the tutoring agency I work at delivering creative writing workshops to kids. These sessions, along with the rest of The Femme Canon workshops – there’s one ticket left and at £30 for all sessions, it’s still a bargain for six hours of workshop time! The reason why I’ve been aiming to work Monday-Wednesdays with regular work is partly to be able to do one-off workshops across the rest of the week (as well as to try to give myself time to write!)

As for today, I’ve done a bit of admin, as well as person writing, NaPoWriMo writing, and a bit of writing for my show. I’m going to do a bit more admin, as well as revise my maths a bit to brush up whilst doing 11+ tuition. I’m actually enjoying the focus these exercises give my mind. Yesterday afternoon I met up with a friend called Ella Daniels (also a writer, I’m incredible excited for what she has planned!). We spoke about making time for doing the things we love, so I’m planning to get into better reading habits by slightly changing how I schedule my time.

 

Lastly, next week, Joel Auterson – fellow Kid Glove member and Roundhouse alumni – is having a book launch. I’ve already read his book Unremember from Bad Betty Press and it’s pretty special. There’s a great list of poets supporting on the night, including another Kid Glover, Antosh Wojcik, She Grrrowls poet Aisling Fahey, and another fave Laurie Ogden. Also, Poet in the City have a series of events at Wilton’s Music Hall on Women Poets Who Changed 1968, looking at some of the poets who we cover in The Femme Canon – Maya Angelou and Adrienne Rich.

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20.09.17 – She Grrrowls: London Book Launch

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Hypocrite

I was at primary school when I first learnt what the word ‘hypocrite’ meant. I remember because I recall shouting it at other players during after-school netball games. I say shouting, but I’m quite softly spoken and so maybe I wasn’t all that loud. But I remember one friend laughing at me as I said it. Those who get close to me will learn this strange mix of vehement-quiet-girl still exists within me (why I’m so excited for the Shy Radicals book).

It was when I was a teenager, that I began to see my parents – and adults in general – as human beings. With flaws. One of those flaws being that they were massive hypocrites. As a child who had school reports detailing my strong sense of right and wrong, it was only natural that I developed this idea that being a hypocrite was not something I wanted to be, and with that I found it hard not to be overly righteous in defending my views. I never believed that I would become a hypocrite.

But maybe I was wrong. If I am to analyse the details of everything I do, I regularly go against what I believe in. I can do a lot better. And although I’m taking steps towards doing better, there will always be things I do that don’t live up to my ideal version of myself, especially when it comes to making money. For example, my current day job is teaching English as a foreign language. It can be a very rewarding job, yet, a big part of me is also uncomfortable about the fact that there is so much demand to learn English. It reminds me of how privileged I am to have been born where I was. Such a small country, such a widespread language, such a horrible history of colonialism.

And here I am, post-Brexit, living in Spain, not able to speak the language – because if you know English, why bother with any other language? Even the one of your heritage. My plan, to return to the UK, hopefully better acquainted with Spanish, and focus on my career as a writer. I feel I haven’t given myself the chance to properly try to live my dream. For a dream, I know it will seem less of that in reality, that it will be a struggle. But then so is working full-time and trying to work in the arts as a second job. It’s time that I make it a priority.

And in doing that, it’s likely my morals may be called into question. I might still be a hypocrite, and I might face dilemmas. Except maybe the money will be too much of a temptation, because I already auditioned for an advert for Transport for London because it paid more than my annual wage at the time (I’m now earning about half that annual wage, but my mental health is a lot better and I’m living in my own apartment instead of with my parents). And this dilemma is if I am lucky. Whenever I have seen other poets at Buckingham Palace, or on adverts, I have been excited for them, knowing that (despite the moral implications) I would be honoured to be asked and can’t imagine doing anything other than accept it. Even if I did feel uneasy about it.

This is for the same reason that I accepted my first job offer after I finished my MA and stayed there for 4 years. Because I have been taught that things are so bad that I should be grateful for whatever I can get. But right now, I have taken a risk and applied for Edinburgh Fringe Festival and booked to stay at a hostel for a month. It’s nearly double my current rent. I’m trying to save, but I am worried about being able to afford it. I thought about applying for some extra work that would ease these worries – £1000 for a month’s work online – but in the end, I wasn’t sure I would be able to commit to it on top of my full-time job teaching.

So, to imagine the fee that comes with doing adverts, such as the Nationwide ones, knowing that it could enable me to live my dream. It would be too good to refuse. And as another poet pointed out, it is the system that is the problem, and most of the time we are just trying to live. I’ve worked for minimum wage for WHSmith, JD Wetherspoons and Sainsbury’s. It doesn’t mean I agree with what they stand for, so if I was asked to pen a poem for those same companies, would it be any different? Perhaps it would, being that you are publicly associating your own brand as a poet with their brand, therefore it is a kind of endorsement that isn’t as true being a sales/bar assistant, which carries with it an element of anonymity, of being part of a uniformed mass.

In the midst of debate around the Nationwide adverts, although admitting he respects the poets in the ads, poet Luke Wright sparked debate with his poem Renegade Poets, which I think is what was intended. It is not so much the poets in the ads being targeted, but rather opening up a discussion about what it means when we accept these opportunities, especially for those of us who write political pieces and are vocal about things like Feminism and Capitalism. ‘McGough is doing Waitrose, and Clarkey’s doing chips…’ Wright says, while acknowledging it’s not about one specific case, and that it’s not new.

He laments about the art that is lost, the compromise you have to have, when selling your work in this way. One line that struck me was: ‘if nobody wants to see your show, it’s probably not good enough’, because part of me thinks there’s more to it than that. For example, with She Grrrowls, the audience can vary widely in numbers, and sadly I think being a feminist night, featuring women, this makes it more niche. Then again, there’s also music and comedy, which are arguably less niche than poetry. I have also had a promotor basically tell me that I don’t bring enough audience to the show. Whilst that may be true, I would never say that to one of my acts. It’s rude and patronising.

Nevertheless, the sentiment harks back to that line in Wright’s poem. If you are familiar with Wright’s work, you’ll see that at least in this sense, he practises what he preaches. How do you make something good enough? You work hard at it. At the night Homework, as well as in his solo shows, you can see the effort that goes into creating quality pieces, and the poem Renegade Poets is a great poem too, with an ending that really drives the point home.

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The point being to think more about making these decisions, instead of doing what I imagine I might do – just see the money and and say yes. So, yes it’s important to think about this topic, but at the moment, I don’t think I’m able to make a decision. I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong in all contexts, but something that comes down to an individual company and what they stand for, and the person making that choice.

When I did my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship five years ago, part of me thought that if I had the right tools I could be successful in the arts. I grew up with two teachers as parents and they worked hard in their field and have been able to provide me with a good life. I have become slightly disillusioned since graduating and working, that although we were taught that the “struggling artist” cliche is a myth that doesn’t have to be fulfilled, I still fear know that by taking a risk later this year, I will living on the “cabbage budget” and may never see the “champagne budget”.

Disillusioned, but only slightly. I still hold on to my dream, and feel I have to give myself that chance. On another  related note, Roxane Gay recently pulled publication of her next book How to Be Heard after ‘alt-right’ Milo Yiannopoulos received a $250,000 advance from Simon & Schuster. It is an act of protest. She has been able to stand by her morals and principles, but she has also been quoted by The Guardian as saying ‘I can afford to take this stand. Not everyone can. Remember that.’ Whether these moral choices are something we can do from the start of our career, or whether it is something success enables us to do so is still up for debate. I may be a hypocrite now, but I will try to push myself and do better.