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.


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.

What would you do if this happened to you?

Today has been a good day. I reflected on how I’d appreciate my job more if I wasn’t so focused on things outside it (making it in the poetry biz). In this moment, I realised that I can enjoy my job a lot more by adjusting how I’m looking at it. Sometimes I see it as something preventing me from doing things I want to do. I’m sure we all do from time to time. Actually, there’s room to be quite creative in my role as an Academic Mentor for English, and it’s given me a lot of experience that is sure to benefit me in my future career.

Today I also took the opportunity to read some of my poetry on the theme of adventure to some visiting primary school students as part of World Book Day/Week. They were in Year 6 and were adorable, and so hardworking and talented. It was a real pleasure to work with them to produce their own adventure poems! I saw only a handful, but I was really impressed by the imagination and creativity of their work, and how enthusiastically they scribbled away.


I left work having read an Irish myth with some Year 11s, and having written some sonnets with my Creative Writing Club. I was feeling pretty chuffed, and looking forward to writing a different blog post and hoping to revive the novel I started a couple of years ago now. I then passed a man who, mid-crossover, held out his hand to me. There was a wad of cash and a piece of paper, and he was gesturing to me to take it. He told me, “you’ve had a good day, you deserve it.”

I was really taken aback, and for some reason, I said “that’s alright” and refused the money. It was about £20-60. I didn’t look at it long, and soon enough the moment was over. But it got me thinking. I was so curious as to why someone would do that. And why me? Pure chance, luck of the draw? It also made me think about my reaction – why did I reject it?


Well, my first thought after rejecting it was that I could have given it to someone who needed it more than me; if this was a random act of kindness, I could have accepted it and passed it on. Remember the film, Pay it Forward? I thought of the woman who is regularly on the streets outside Bethnal Green tube station, about the poets coming to perform at my place of work for very little money, and the friends and loved ones who are struggling to earn who I could treat with it.

If my first reaction was that I’m not deserving of it, why was this? I’m on relatively low pay for the job I’m in, for my qualifications, and still live with my parents due to this. Plus, with my artistic ambitions, saving every penny should be important. Maybe because it was near payday, and maybe because I had been reflecting on how lucky I was already that day, I felt like I should reject it, that I didn’t deserve it.

This idea of what one deserves is interesting, especially as I tend to make a lot of assumptions about what I deserve. However, as I’m writing now I realise that these assumptions are  bound up in exchanges. Perhaps it felt bad for me to accept the money because I’d feel guilty: no exchange took place. However, by rejecting it, I may be denying him the good feeling of this random act of kindness, if that was his intention. There are two strands of thought to which this is then tied. Firstly, this idea of exchange, I’m guessing, must stem from living in a capitalist society. I hadn’t done anything to earn that money, so why should I have it?


Secondly, my mind jumped from thinking about what I could have possibly done to earn the money. That maybe I didn’t do anything, maybe I just was. I began to wonder of the intention in a way that may not make sense, but I wondered about the gendered aspect of this situation. Would he have offered the money to a man? I questioned this, and when I told my dad, he not only said that he would have taken the money, but that he imagined if he was a woman he would be wondering about the intention of this.

I’m not saying there is anything gendered in terms of taking the money or not (yet) as my mum also said she would take it. But I have to admit that these years of walking as a woman have made me defensive when it comes to men talking to me in the street due to the amount of negative, intimidating situations I’ve encountered. A random act of kindness did provoke some suspicion. I felt the same way when a man offered me a seat on the train once: do I look pregnant? I panicked.


I wondered what was written on the note, probably a nice message about having a nice day and doing something nice with the money. The guy that approached me was just a normal guy, nothing stood out to me as unusual. And he did seem genuine and nice. Perhaps it links back to experiences as a teenager with what strangers were to me. They threw water balloons at you. They slapped you in parks. They called you to their van to ask directions. They kissed you at drunken parties. They called you and threatened to “shank” you. What is sad is that I’ve internalised these experiences, so that when a stranger does something we can probably safely assume was kind, I question these motives – and my deservingness – so automatically that it is simply a reflex to reject the money.

I’m really interested to know what others would do, so please comment below to let me know how you think you might react to this situation. I’m also really curious to find out why this man offered me this money, so if he ends up reading this, please let me know! I wish I had stopped to ask why. For now, I’ll override my initial concerns and put it down to a random act of kindness. And maybe next time I’ll be more aware of it happening.


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 🙂


Don’t Fritter Your Fiver

Since I’m saving for my MA whilst on little more than minimum wage, and, I’m pretty sure this recession stuff is still rolling, I thought it would be useful to think of little ways to save money.  One tool I should point out is the Drink Aware website, as it promotes healthier drinking habits too.  Out of interest, this month I kept track of how I’ve spent my fivers.  Although I have at times given into the urge to splurge on sale items I can’t afford, it is often the little things that add up and make all the difference between a a healthy balance and, well, overdrawn.  As my mum always says, ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.’

So I looked at ways that I have been frittering my fivers!  This way I can see what my spending habits are and whether I am spending it on necessities or luxuries.  It went a little something like this…

– 04/01/12: £1.50 – Basmati Rice from Iceland.

– 07/01/12: £3.26 – Chocolate Crêpes, Terry’s Chocolate Orange, and 5 Aero Xmas Trees, from Sainsbury’s.

– Chocolates and a present: £4.50, from Sainsbury’s.

– 10/01/12: £1.52 for postage of poetry submissions.

– 21/01/12: Dessert at Nando’s.

– 26/01/12: More chocolate.

– Various: £2.60 to get to work in Epsom.

So, looking over my spending, I spend a lot on chocolate, which tends to be when I’m visiting my boyfriend.  I had a feeling I was doing this and told him maybe we should try not to do it so much.  The only necessities were the rice and travel for work.  The postage was also a wise spend.  And the present could be argued as unnecessary but I think it was worthwhile!

Okay, I’m partial to a bit of chocolate in the evening but I think I can go for a couple of days without (as I write, there’s a strip of chocolate in the cupboard which I am foregoing to get some things ticked off my to-do list.  So, if I stopped buying as much chocolate, I could save approximately £10-15 a month.  That’s £120-180 a year!  That could practically get me a festival ticket or a cheap holiday! That could buy me more poetry books – even though I have around 10 to read, my Gran got me a membership for the Poetry Society which I want to use.  And I think supporting poetry is probably more important than chocolate (although that arguably helps with serotonin levels and increases happiness – yay!)

So, if you fancy not frittering your fiver, you could use it to buy some poetry… perhaps even help me out and get a copy of my book/eBook, as I could do with the feedback (and the chocolate money – okay, what if I promise I won’t fritter?)  So, I’m not doing anything silly like giving up chocolate, but I am thinking more wisely about spending so much on it, so maybe I’ll only get some if it’s like a really good deal! 😉

I’ll end this post with a new poem that Matt and I are going to use for a project we’re working on.


New year, same you; but with added shine,
a slicker rhyme, I’m feeling fine,
each day is mine – and I’m on fire.
I am climbing, I am always getting higher,
as I shoot and grow,
my roots, I know, are firmly on the ground.
I am free to feel, myself, so real,
I am finally unbound.