Dysfunctional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My offering for the showcase can be read below:

You know me as the wallflower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Larmer Tree Festival 2013 & She Grrrowls

Before I get to the juicy stuff, I’d like to point a couple of things. Firstly, check out my profile of the Spread the Word website as part of the ‘Spoke’ project to find the first Young Poet Laureate for London, for which I was shortlisted. Yep, I made the final twenty ‘Podium Poets’ but sadly didn’t make the cut to the final six. Secondly, I found a link to the Guardian website where there is a picture of me! Gillian Wearing picked my picture as one of her favourites and said ‘I relate to this, having done various jobs myself when I left college’ at my photo, taken in Sainsbury’s uniform with the statement ‘the artist shouldn’t be stacking shelves.’

The major news is that I’ve performed at my first proper festival, you know, with fields and camping and stuff. The festival was Larmer Tree in Salisbury. I went with my friend Natalie and we had an amazing time! The weather was perfect and made me so very happy. I hope to come back the next year and for the weather to be as good! I saw such a range of music, including the lovely Saturday Sun, and a boy playing a pop-up gig who was around 10 and incredible (who was later gutted to miss my performance of ‘Circles’ which was nice to hear). We also made things like insect brooches, necklaces and mosaics. We learnt some hula hoop tricks and now I really want to take it up! I also hope to take up the ukulele, re-inspired by the band there.

I saw some great poets, including Angie Belcher, Edson Burton, Nichol Keene and Toby de Angeli, Joelle Taylor, Poeticat, Scott Tyrrell and The Antipoet. My first performance had been extended to half an hour, which meant that I ran out of material (oops) and had to read from my book. It actually felt good to take my time and read like that, and people got to listen to pieces which I don’t do as much. I probably should have taken my time earlier. My second set was ‘Circles’ the epic-poem I produced with Apples & Snakes as part of the ‘Word’s a Stage’ project. I had memorised it but didn’t quite know it well enough to avoid looking at the paper stuck in my prop (the Metro). I also ran a workshop which I thought went well as most of the participants were lovely and one told me that I should be confident in what I do. Honey, if I knew how to do that, I’d be a more successful poet by now.

Just kidding, I know I come across as a bit shy and softly spoken… but well, I am. I’m growing to accept myself this way and believe I can still be successful being who I am. I lack confidence now and again (don’t we all?) but some people can see my inner-confidence. I’ve been having a bad week so far. I’m not sure where it stemmed from, but I’ve been in a bad mood and felt like I work so hard and don’t have much to show for it. Typing away at a laptop all the time when it’s sunny outside can be a tad depressing. Especially when videos won’t upload. This video by Jodi Ann Bickley helped a bit and it is inspiring to see her work with one million lovely letters. And here I am, still writing this and not knowing if anyone is reading it and if any of this will amount to anything.

So, we had our pilot event for She Grrrowls at Kingston’s Ram Jam Club at the Grey Horse as part of IYAF. How did it go? It was a bit of a disaster but I think we pulled it off. On Thursday night the headline act pulled out, on my return from Larmer Tree on Monday, another act was forced to pull out, and whilst the event had started, another act pulled out. Only two out of our five acts actually was able to make it. Luckily, we had Sam Neele replace our headliner for the music, who gave a lovely other-worldly set, and I filled in with some poetry. Bisha Ali gave us some hilarious comedy, and I’m gutted I can’t show you a video or tell you some of the jokes but we will definitely have her at She Grrrowls again. Andi Michael gave us extracts from her novel, proving her not only to be an amazing writer but one with a unique style that makes use of poetic language. In addition to the line-up we had on the spot performances from Hannah Rose Tristram, Becky Dennis and Cherry Godiva, who were all amazing. We hope to see everyone again at future She Grrrowls events.

Which brings me to the next point on the agenda. Dates.

Number 1: Wednesday 11th September. The She Grrrowls Spoken Word Launch at The Gallery Cafe in Bethnal Green. Future events every first Wednesday of the month.

Number 2: My next gig will be August 8th at Red Door Studios, 120 Masterman Road East Ham E6 3RW. I will also be delivering an all-day workshop there on Saturday 14th September.

Number 3: August 13th at RichMix in Shoreditch I will be performing a show as part of a writing group through Apples & Snakes.

I think that’s about all anyone’s brain can take in this heat.

xxx

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