Sex in the Afternoon

In the light of the publication of my review (The Norwich Radical) on the Wellcome Collection’s exhibition, The Institute of Sexology, I am posting a poem I recorded at the museum this summer. It was played at the related event Sex in the Afternoon, which took place at the Southbank Centre and featured Malika Booker, Kei Miller, Warsan Shire and Rachel Mars.

Recordings were played prior to the event, and featured Burn After Reading poets, including: Antosh Wojcik, Belinda Zhawi, Cameron HolleranHarriet Creelman, Katie Byford, Rachel Long and Victoria Anne-Bulley.

The Institute of Sexology continues at the Wellcome Collection until 20th September 2015. Sex in the Afternoon tour dates include Contact in Manchester on 23rd September and West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds on 12th October.

The Last Word Festival

The Last Word Festival is a week-long annual festival of spoken word events at The Roundhouse. In addition to  the scratch show for ‘Dear Adventure’ with Kid Glove, I watched ten other shows. You can find five of them reviewed briefly here, and another five reviewed on The Norwich Radical website.

Sophie Rose

Quiet Violence

I hadn’t seen Sophie Rose perform, and this ending up being of of my favourite shows of the festival. Rose had a natural quality to her performance, as she moved from narrative story-telling to poetic details, successfully blending humour with more serious moments. The ‘quiet violence’ began with high heels, which made me think I should get rid of mine, dusty because they look so much better in my wardrobe that on my feet, where I’d eventually be stumbling and sporting some of the ankle-protection shown on Rose’s subtle costume. The concept of the show appeared to me as a unique one, yet it was so relatable that it was both hilarious (who knew bags could be so funny?) and, dare I say, life changing. By the end, it encouraged the audience to do what makes them happy, rather than what they feel obliged to do, to find the people who would make them soup when they’re ill, and to change what they don’t like rather than simply put up with it. Sophie Rose wants to know, what’s your quiet violence?

Producing Your Own Poetry Show

Throughout the festival there were a range of workshops offered. Having seen Sophie Rose’s show, I was curious as to how this would also work with a workshop about how others could produce shows. Rose made the room a comfortable space, where we worked individually and as a group to discuss different aspects of making a show. It was difficult to contain in the hour slot, and she generously offered extra time, as well as the space for collaborative discussion under her direction, and gave everyone detailed notes and the offer to contact her. One of the useful tips I picked up was about distilling your show idea down to one word; my word ended up being ‘self-acceptance’, which isn’t what I expected, but shows an idea of what the audience should get from it as well as the artist.

Luke Wright

What I Leaned From Johnny Bevan

Poetry veteran, Luke Wright, previewed his new show amongst many emerging artists. With many shows already under his belt, I was excited to see what this one would bring. Sitting in the audience, I was already excited by the music playing, and as the show began, we heard crafted guitar twangs (from Art Brut’s Ian Catskilken) to a backdrop of changing scene sketches. I was filled with nostalgia of my own early twenties, that were often filled with drinking in council estates with mates and days spent in my first years at UEA, locations both featured in the show. Yet this nostalgia also gave a sense of timelessness, a dystopian feel, which the tale of Johnny Bevan represented, that we remain to the social class we’re born in, and that just as previous governments reinforced these class divisions, so will the current one. With the election results still fresh, the poetic narrative of Johnny Bevan painted a bleak future, but perhaps, in this gritty reality, it is a reminder as to why it is important to keep fighting. Essentially, this is a story, but the poetry of the show is not merely due to the use of rhyme, but the depth of meaning behind the words.

Poetry Reincarnation

I didn’t know what I had let myself in for at the time – Poetry Reincarnation started at around 7pm, and it was stilling going past the scheduled end time of 11.15pm. I had also attended part of the earlier programme of events, with a panel discussion on poetry and, essentially, its importance in our lives creatively and politically. The evening event kicked off with Malika Booker, giving a somewhat unspoken progression this world has made beyond the Beat Poet generation of white men, and its unmentioned allegations of pedophilia, and support of the NAMBLA. Since finding this information out, I now always feel uneasy about this kind of worship of poets such as Allen Ginsberg. There were around twenty poets, so I’m going to focus on my favourites. Booker was one highlight, having recently read ‘Pepperseed’ and she was followed by Cecila Knapp, who represented the under-30s and did a stellar job all weekend. Libby Houston was a poet from the older generation of poets performing since the 60s who impressed with her poetics, humour and wide smile.

Kei Miller reminded me that I want to buy his collection, and poets such as John Hegley and Elvis McGonagall brought excitement to the event in the form of rhyme, rhythm and comedy. Music was used effectively throughout the show, breaking up the mass of spoken word, and including more experimental and psychedelic parts that were evocative of the 60s, yet Gwyneth Herbert was a powerhouse in this respect, with a voice that ranged from soft and subtle to loud and proud. Janaka Stucky was a poet I was unfamiliar with, and coming from Boston, it felt a privilege to see him perform his work. Salena Godden, recently mentioned by Hannah Silva at The Place for Poetry, was even more of a delight to watch after hearing this analysis. Francesca Beard was a poet I recently argued at She Grrrowls, and I saw her do some of the same, as well as new material, and again, she left me wanting more, with every word layered with meaning, yet also dishing out a dry, witty humour throughout her set. I sadly missed the end of Dr John Cooper Clarke’s set, and leaving after a couple of sexist, tired wife jokes, I was disappointed with what I did see, but hopefully I’ll be better impressed when I see him again in July. The way poets such as JCC are often held on a pedestal, it seems almost sacrilege to dare say his jokes were sexist, and as much as I want to suggest that perhaps I just couldn’t keep to the the speed of his speech, I can’t deny that these cliched wife jokes just don’t tickle me. And surely, if we want our poetry to be truly revolutionary, I can’t be too scared to say something is sexist. What this event did showcase, as well as the non-programmed event simultaneously taking place in the Made in Camden bar, of which I was meant to be a part, is the vibrancy and variety of contemporary poetry today, and the importance of learning about poets who came before us.

Cecilia Knapp

Finding Home

In case you’ve not noticed, Cecilia Knapp has been a regular feature in The Last Word Festival. This scratch was presented almost in full, stripped down against a backdrop of a blue moon sinking behind a horizon. We saw the first half, where Knapp delivered her usual poetic narrative, mostly in free verse, that lulled the sold-out audience into her world, painted so beautifully with her words. I felt there was a danger of romanticising things here, but this was possibly because cigarette references personally jar with me. I know this criticism is probably unfounded, and otherwise that I would struggle to find any room for improvement here, because however beautiful the language, this is her life. ‘Finding Home’ is a piece that manages to be both autobiographical, and I found that I could relate to the words, and I was taken on a journey, so that by the end – or the half-way point – I wasn’t ready for the lights to come up.

Spring Time Delights

The sun has got his (her?) hat on and I’m coming out to play! I had the past couple of weeks off work, and as much as I like my job… it’s pretty cool not to be working. I went to the Schwitters exhibition at Tate Britain – I’m going to review this for a submission, so more on that later. I graduated from my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship (with Distinction) and my poetry collection was even mentioned before making my way across the podium. I had a lovely meal at Tramshed afterwards and then went on to a meeting for She Grrrowls, my new Feminist group that I’m running with Emily Prichard. We’re going to be doing arts events alongside it. This is probably a good time to mention that we’re looking for female spoken word artists to perform in Kingston on 22nd July. Head to the contact page to express your interest! You need to be 26 or under as it is part of IYAF.

photo (7)I have lots of exciting news (some of which I still can’t share at the moment). Firstly, I have been invited to hold a stall at the Saboteur Awards on 29th May. I shall be bringing lots of lovely books (I have over 30 copies – eeek!) as well as t-shirts, badges, stickers and audio CDs. I’m excited about attending the awards as I will get to see if Shake the Dust wins an award, woop woop!

Also, in case you haven’t heard, it’s NaPoWriMo aka National Poetry Writing Month. You’re meant to write 30 poems, so one poem per day. I’ve had a couple of catch-up days but I’d say I’d doing pretty well. I’ll probably post the best ones when I’m done. Anyway, I’m doing much better than when I tried to do a novel… though I have started reading a book about novel writing – one day! *shakes fist*

I’ve also been asked to be the resident poet for Bang Said the Gun, in May. I’m really excited as I’ve been wanted to go there more and this means that I will have to be there every night and I get to perform. I have a plus one each night, so I’m hoping some of my poetic, and perhaps non-poetic friends will come with me.

I’ve also got a plus one for tomorrow’s scratch performance of (part of) my piece ‘Circles’ that I created from the ‘Word’s a Stage’ project by Apples & Snakes, where I was mentored by Malika Booker. It takes place at Hackney’s Picturehouse Cinema, and is called ‘Scratch That Hackney!’

 

21.11.12 – The Word’s a Stage

Tickets for this evening are priced at £5.00. Apples and Snakes presents The Word’s a Stage When: Wednesday 21 November, 7.30pm Where: Gallery Café, 21 Old Ford Road, London E2 9PL Tickets: £5 / £4 concs Info: thegallerycafe.blogspot.co.uk Don’t you love a challenge? We’ve challenged four poets to each come up with a brand new 20-minute poem and knock it into performable shape by 21 November. A cinch? Impossible? Come along and see. The Four: Carmina Masoliver, Selina Nwulu, Anthony Hett, Errol McGlashan The Mentor: Malika Booker Malika has been honing and editing. Our writers have been writing and rewriting. And now – the exclusive unveiling, a night of newness. When these poems are veritable pillars of spoken-word theatre, you’ll be able to say ‘Ah yes, I first heard this at the Gallery Café in Bethnal Green’. 

broken machines/hearts & magpies

Recent news. I went to see Every Rendition on a Broken Machine, performed live by the writer Ross Sutherland at Toynbee Studios, organised by Penned in the Margins aka Tom Chivers. I can only assume it will be on Channel 4 soon because this documentary needs airing. I loved it. It was not only interesting, but told with Sutherland’s natural humour. Being live, your eyes darted from him to the screen, but I liked to look at the screen, so that the sound was like a voice-over. The film was about internet poetry, so a a poet (and internet addict), I obviously found this engaging. However, I think even non-poets would like to watch it. I mean, it features Clarissa Explains it All. Come on!

Yesterday I had the first workshop for Word’s a Stage. It was great meeting the other poets – Selina Nwulu, Anthony Hett, Errol McGlashan. We are being mentored by Malika Booker, who my Mum has banged on about since I first started reading my poetry to audiences 6 years ago (when Booker was involved in the education department at Apples & Snakes, since my Mum works at a school). She has been fantastic so far and I’m looking forward to the next session, once I’ve done my “homepleasure” in developing my character for the piece I’ve written more and re-draft it.

After a long but inspiring day (10am-5pm) I met with my parents, had some Nando’s (of course) and went to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I’d read the book some years ago and enjoyed it but couldn’t remember the plot (I’m terrible). We were going to see On the Road, but it had got bad reviews and there are so many films I want to see, we decided not to chance it. It ended up being a bonus that I couldn’t remember it, and although it broke me, it was truly awesome – and not in the slang-way, in the real way.

The quote ‘we accept the love we think we deserve’ is in itself genius, but turned into film, you felt like you were inside it. Needless to say, I cried throughout it. It wasn’t perfect; I didn’t understand it when the character of Sam said “I’m not bulimic, I’m bulim-ist” and this idea wasn’t explored any deeper. If the characters are going to laugh along to lines like that, I just think there should be more to it than that, especially with the current growth of pro-ana people (Say what?! Google it). Other than that moment, it was tragic and beautiful and so moving. It just made you feel so vulnerable afterwards.

Anyway, read the book too. I feel like I need to read it again now.

The last thing I want to write about is the last issue of Poetry Review. Tom Philips’ work was shown on the cover, which I liked as both poetry and visual art. While we’re on that subject, submit to Poetry & Paint. I enjoyed Chrissy Williams’ piece ‘From Page to Stage’ as it’s on my wavelength. I also loved reading Katy Evans-Bush write about Adventures in Form, and On Poetry because I had actually read both books! And now for some quick summaries on why I liked certain poets:

Chris McCabe: the first poet in the collection that caught my attention, with a beautiful use of language and caesuras.

Michael Hofmann: I liked the juxtaposition of items in a broken list, from the idea of bar-coding people to the familiarity of the use of ‘maiden name’ and the general ‘GSOH’.

C.J. Driver: The use of rhythm and the subtleties of language gives it a musicality, and an ephemeral quality.

Carrie Etter: Raw emotion is sculptured into metaphor, with wonders such as “I wanted to sprinkle a little /into flour, egg and cocoa/and feed the cake of you to everyone.”

Karen McCarthy Woolf: I loved the uniqueness of this piece, with descriptions like modern relic, and it’s mixture of humour and tragedy.

Edward Mackay: Although I couldn’t relate to this poem, I admired the way it was crafted into the shape of Wales.

Declan Ryan: There was a tonal quality to the first stanza with which I couldn’t identify, but I enjoyed gems such as “This isn’t an answer or a letter -/it’s only a cup of coffee after lunch”. This is when the poem took off, for me, and I liked the use of simile and metaphor, contrasted with simple dialogue.

Robert Stein: I liked the voice of this poem, and the funny phrases such as “Before falling in love with you…” in its desire to make love logical.

Naomi Foyle: This is probably my favourite poem of this collection. I loved every part of it and would love to read more.

Hannah Lowe: I liked that I could relate to the environment of the dance class, and twist of the final line: “he’s the cab my mother sends for me.”

Amy Acre: This is my joint favourite poem. I know Acre from her live performances, and it was a joy to find this poem included. Really clever and well-written, and lines such as “gathering strength like the hems of skirts. You are a continent.”

xxx