Freelance Reflections #38

Last weekend was the ‘Free Spirits: Loss in Lockdown’ exhibition. I went with my parents, and my mum could especially relate to Rachel Sambrooks’ beautiful poetry, alongside the visual artwork, since also losing her dad at the start of the year. Two of my poems were on display: the first one I wrote after his death, and the other simply titled ‘Grandad’, which I had written about last week in relation to the Muddy Feet Poetry video.

This week, I have started with a few more students again, and I’m slowly getting on top of things and starting better habits, with writing at least. I’ve felt quite stressed out with work at times, still feeling overwhelmed, but I’m feeling a bit lighter now. I also have made a few tweaks to a new book I’m self-publishing, ‘Selected Poems: 2007-2012’.

With my Nasty Little Press having came out in 2014, I felt this period would be nice to have as a kind of time capsule. I previously published ‘Carmina’s Poetry Tease’, but this work combines poetry with a kind of visual mixed media. Initially produced during my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship, it’s a third of the size of the original. I got the proof copy, and needed to make some adjustments, and once I’ve approved the next copy, it’ll be available for global distribution via Lulu.

‘Leopard print is my favourite colour’

I’ll also make some available on my Big Cartel, though as it’s print-on-demand, it’ll take a little longer to come through, but much better for the poet than buying on Amazon! In other news, I treated myself to this lovely rose and peony candle from Art Wow, which is a cool website with affordable artwork. The candle is in my favourite colour combo (also the colours of the pansexual flag) – blue, pink and yellow! As I write this, I’m also wearing my Biffy Clyro ‘There’s always space for the arts’ t-shirt*. I’m excited about seeing them live in November! I also got to eat this lovely lunch with my flatmate for her birthday, from The Guava Kitchen in Forest Hill (I recommend the guava balls!)

*100% of proceeds will go towards supporting Create (Arts) Limited to improve the lives of society’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged people through creative arts. (Registered Charity No 1099733).

Freelance Reflections #37

This week I’ve only had one student, and I also did my tax for 2020-21. Let me tell you, ignorance is bliss! It looks like I’ll be paying a third of my income until the end of the year, with the other third on surviving (and hopefully the last third on saving for the next tax bill…) My head is buried deep still. Now would be a good time to buy a copy of ‘Circles’ off me from my Big Cartel: https://carminamasoliver.bigcartel.com.

The plus side, I’ve been sticking to having at least an hour of poetry writing each day, and have started workshops with Simon Mole to produce poems for children and families, alongside the ongoing Red Sky Sessions with Apples and Snakes. This week we had Adam Kammerling, and it was nice to see fellow Roundhouse Collective (Kid Glove) member, Antosh Wojcik get a name check. 

Muddy Feet Poetry also put out my video ‘Grandad’ out on Tuesday. As I said in my Instagram post, poetry has always been my way of processing difficult things. I am nowhere near processing this, but it felt good to honour my grandad in this way, in a poem that is sad, but also joyful in that it touches on fond memories. I hope others grieving in this time especially enjoy this piece and that it allows you time to grieve. 

I ventured out this week for a meal outdoors, trying to balance between the overwhelm of unfinished to-do lists and enforced relaxation. I’m a little worried that summer may still be bad work-wise, but even if it is, I can comfort myself that I’ll still have some savings and at least I’ll be able to focus on some creative projects. And hopefully sunshine. 

I’m actually writing this on my phone in a park in between my second vaccine appointment and a massage (to support the beauty industry y’know). Some kids just walked past and one asked where I got my “Jordon’s” from and I said I couldn’t remember, “some vintage shop”. One took the piss two steps away and I realised what a middle-class hipster wanker I must have sounded like, all the while they were probably from eBay.

Remember this Saturday is the free exhibition Free Spirits: Loss in Lockdown, by Jo Sharpe and poet Rachel Sambrooks at Studio 9 Oaks Park Studios in Carshalton on the 17th and 24th April, which you can register for online on Eventbrite.

Freelance Reflections #36

Last week’s She Grrrowls wasn’t as smooth as usual, but it was nice to see both the poets involved sharing poems, as well as audience members. I made a point of not bringing my laptop away when visiting family in Hastings for a picnic, but ended up writing a draft of a book review for The Norwich Radical on the journey on my phone!

I still worked on Bank Holiday Monday, but on Tuesday I got to use my wetsuit and booties for the first time in the 9-10 degree pool in Brockwell Park. It was so freezing, and strangely difficult to swim more than two lengths at a time. I’d never been in such cold water to my mind.

With less of some work, I’ve been trying to get on top of boring admin tasks, but also been writing a lot more and catching up with NaPoWriMo prompts, as well as attending the amazing Apples and Snakes’ Red Sky Sessions with Bohdan Piasecki, which have so far included Malika Booker and Jacob Sam-La Rose, two absolute poetry heroes.

I found out today that after being longlisted for Butcher’s Dog, I didn’t make the cut, which I’m gutted about. I never expect to be accepted when submitting poems, so to get so close makes it extra disappointing somehow. Then again, it is also all the more reason to try again in future.

To end on a positive note, successfully recorded two poems with Muddy Feet Poetry on Thursday outdoors in Deptford. I had learnt one by heart, and was super nervous, but Pete and Stanley were so lovely and supportive throughout, I felt really happy afterwards.

The main poem we recorded is also part of Free Spirits: Loss in Lockdown, by Jo Sharpe and poet Rachel Sambrooks. There will be a free exhibition at Studio 9 Oaks Park Studios in Carshalton on the 17th and 24th April, which you can register for online on Eventbrite.

It’s a strange experience writing about something like grief and putting it out into the world; sometimes I feel like artists get it because we all do it, but maybe it’s a bit odd to other people, but it is all part of how we process the world and how we connect.

Freelance Reflections #17

Last Thursday, I watched R.A.P. Party on Zoom, hosted by Inua Ellams. I was cooking whilst it was on, then treated myself to a drink as the combination of music and poetry lends itself to a tipple. I knew most of the poets in the line-up, as mentioned in my previous post, but I hadn’t heard Gemma Weekes before. I was blown away, and both me and my flatmate said she was our favourite of the night. For me, not knowing what to expect, she really stood out. The content was very relatable for those of us who love hip hop, but remain critical of displays of misogyny, such as ‘Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks’, the Dr. Dre lyric Weekes dissected in her performance. With her arm propped against her knee, her delivery was captivating as the words came out as easily as breathing. This casual posture made you feel like you were literally inside her home, having a conversation over a cup of tea, only with a spoonful of sharp-tongued poetry rather than sugar.

Gemma Weekes

I’ve also had some good news lately, having found out first via Twitter that I’d been longlisted for the Grindstone International Poetry Prize. My poem ‘Computer Generated Images’, recorded by Muddy Feet Poetry, was also in the Top 20 on The Poetry Archive, a competition judged by Imtiaz Dharker, Robert Seatter and Lavinia Singer.

Coming up this Thursday is the Roundhouse Poetry Slam Final streamed online, and it’s Pay What You Can. I’ve just seen the list of poets and know Amani Saeed, Ruth Awolola and Oshanti Ahmed personally, I’ll be rooting for them! There’s also an audience vote, which is exciting!

Freelance Reflections #10

As of last Wednesday, it has officially been a year since I registered as self-employed. I’m in a much better position than I was a year ago when I started. The main battle is with my mind, to stop questioning myself and live how I want to live. I have regular work to keep me going Monday to Wednesday, which spills a little over into Thursday. This means I have  between 3-4 days to focus on other things.

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The challenge is to stick to this routine and give myself permission to do the necessary creative work, and remember that this is a legitimate use of my time, as well as the work that I’m being funded to do for the She Grrrowls book tour. Yet, there are also times where other things come up, the routine gets disrupted… usually with work, but also with other things like seeing friends and family.

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Most recently, I went to Leicester for the She Grrrowls book tour with Joelle Taylor and Esther Poyer. It was a great night and from there I went to see my grandparents in Yorkshire, and my cousin in Nottingham. Last week, I did a week of TEFL work and it was intense. I taught 9am-1pm, had a nice lunch break before leaving to tutor 2.30pm-8.30pm, then did my planning for more tutoring sessions after a quick dinner, leaving just enough time to squeeze in a bit of Spanish and Netflix before doing the same again. It was also National Poetry Day that week, meaning I had an excuse to show a video of Joelle Taylor to the most advance group, tell them about Rallying Cry, and make them do some of their own poetry.

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Things eased up towards the end of the week, but as anyone who’s freelance knows… there’s always more work to do be done, so I filled my time with all the other necessary tasks. I ended the week by hosting She Grrrowls at The Poetry Cafe. It was so busy, I was regretfully having to turn people away or there wouldn’t be room for people who had booked tickets in advance… something I’ll have to think about in future in case of no-shows. A much better problem to have than being in a cold room in New Cross with just a handful of people.

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I took a train to Norwich with a friend, where we celebrated with a group of our uni friends as it has been 10 years since we started at UEA together. I came home to find that poet and artist Scott Tyrrell has completed his map of poets. I managed to wrangle my way onto the East Anglia section, which I’m not sure I am entirely deserving of, but I am proud to be there. Although back in London, Norwich was where I really grew as a writer, studying it in a couple of modules at university, but also being part of the local scene of live lit events thanks to people like Amy Wragg and Russell J Turner. I got to support acts like Francesca Beard and Kate Tempest, and gradually made connections with poets from Aisle 16 like Ross Sutherland and Luke Wright, that saw me getting into working with young people, getting my first pamphlet published by Nasty Little Press, and performing at Latitude. For these reasons, my poetry career has a deep connection with the East of England.

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I don’t get that many gigs to do my poetry, but really this is connected to my ideas of what it means to be a “success”. Really this is a a destination that I will never arrive at, because it doesn’t exist. As a creative, you will always keep striving for more, but really the goal should be continue to make work and do what you enjoy whilst having some kind of stability to enable the work. There are so many ways of doing this, and just because your way is different to someone else’s doesn’t make it any less valid. I want to focus more on creative goals and taking small steps towards bigger things, like the fact I’m going to have two videos from Muddy Feet Poetry in the autumn!

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