One-Liners: Edinburgh Fringe Festival Reviews

I’ve written more detailed reviews for The Norwich Radical on shows by the Kitten Killers, Luke Stephens, Kate Smurthwaite, Pole and Hannah Chutzpah. Here I’ve included some smaller reviews to give you a flavour of some of my other many highlights.

Megan Ford: Feminasty

Satirical, character sketches and comedic speeches on gender, Ford switches between characters to connect comedy to more serious issues. We get a cool, informative zine on the way out, and a badge.

Shazia Mirza: A Word In Progress

There were moments I wasn’t sure about: the mention of ‘political correctness’, jokes about fat people, and Jewish people, and the upset at the mention of the girls who left Bethnal Green Academy. I work at the school down the road, and it’s something that directly impacts on the students I teach, but perhaps the point was to create discomfort. The theory that they went “for dick” seemed sadly poignant once the laughter died down and we were told that “epilator, knickers and body lotion” were on the top of their packing list. This is a slightly longer review, because I’m interested to see where the show will go, because, although funny, the ending – a commentary on Islam and so-called “ISIS” was momentous and powerful.

Bridget Christie: A Book For Her

There were at least three acts who mentioned the tax on sanitary products, but Christie suggested the ingenious idea of sending bloody knickers with “END VAT’ on them to George Osborne. In this show, she gave an ironic definition of what being a Feminist means and turned to politics in the UK and USA, with an intersectional focus on race issues.

Katherine Ferns: Conscious Incompetent

I disagreed with points made about “manspreading”, which is simply indicative of patriarchy, and as much a part of it as anything else, I didn’t like jibes at Beyoncé, and I didn’t like the use of the word “retarded”. However, she also made the obligatory tampon tax joke, and her ability to touch on taboo subjects such as incest, rape and pedophilia was both clever and somehow funny (and not in an offensive way). She spoke frankly of what difficulties in her life, from depression to drugs, and weighed up whether decisions she’d made were brave or stupid. Well, I’d say the brave outweighs the stupid.

Jack Rooke: Good Grief

He probably won’t want his youth commenting on, but I left Rooke’s show in awe of what he is doing. Not only has he created this wonderful show, which has the perfect balance of comedy and more sombre moments, but he is symbolic of how the personal is political. What goes on with the government directly impacts on our lives, and through The Good Grief Project, he is challenging current changes to the Widowed Parent’s Allowance.

Harry Baker: The Sunshine Kid

You couldn’t help but smile throughout this show, as Baker took us through his life prior to university to now through his poetry, which can be found in the book of the same title by Burning Eye Books.

David Lee Morgan: Building God

An intense show about revolution and communism, Morgan’s voice kept audiences captivated through his ways with words and the beat of the music he played as a backdrop.

Stephanie Laing: Nincompoop

A show about shame that started with not letting an old lady sit down, and inevitably went on to talk about drunken behaviour, bad dreams and sexual antics. With songs and a flute, Chesney Hawks, and a serious note about shame and self-harm, what’s not to love?

Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburn: Fake It ‘Til You Make It

I gave this show a standing ovation. I’ve never been made to cry from watching dancing before this. I bought the play text, but I wish I could relive the experience as I read. Bryony Kimmings and her real-life partner Tim Grayburn use comedy, dance, and spoken word to speak about mental health more honestly than I’ve ever seen before. It was incredibly touching and I wanted to cry a lot more than I actually did.

Sophia Walker: Can’t Care, Won’t Care

An insight into the care industry through a legal battle between the state and the carer. This shows as in with such jobs, there is minimal pay and agency for those who truly care about the individuals they work for, the service users. It was honest and passionate, and so heartbreaking.

The Kagools

No words and a whole lot of audience participation. I was thankful to do no more than eat a Hula Hoop. The best part was their use of pre-recorded material on the screen, and that whilst it felt like each part was a random act, it tied neatly together by the end.

Elf Lyons: Being Barbarella

I loved the Feminist angle of wanting to be this confident person, and wanting to be empowered sexually and otherwise. Lyon’s mis-matching accents was especially funny, as well as her use of costume.

Ben Norris: The Hitchhikers Guide to the Family

Ben Norris explores his relationship with his father through a hitchhike through all the places his dad had lived, proving an interesting story that explored masculinity as a whole and was sure to connect with many men in the audience.

Aisling Bea: Plan Bea

I loved this and was laughing constantly. She had good accents and I liked the reclaiming of ‘girl’ as a word of complexities, and there were slight political points, but worked in a subtle way. Again, this was about confidence and owning your own “shame” (her being in this heavy metal pirate video)

Mark Watson: Flaws

A show about flaws, obviously, and lacking self-esteem, mental health issues and turning to alcohol. Watson is such a warm character that you can’t help but warm to him (unless you were one of the three women who left after fifteen minutes).

Paula Varjack: How I Became Myself (By Becoming Someone Else)

A really interesting piece, as well as in terms of subject matter – the idea of changing your identity – but also in terms of how this was done visually – mixing front performance, through the camera and on screen. 

So It Goes

Another show with no words spoken aloud, but written on white boards, using props and dance to illustrate the story of Hannah’s dad, dealing with his death, and her friend David helping her to tell this story. There was laughter, and many, many tears.

Sara Hirsch: How Was It For You?

‘I can’t rhyme you,’ Hirsch proclaims, asserting why she can’t write a poem for her then-boyfriend, in the middle of what is almost a long love poem to the ex in question. But it was also a love poem to herself, and for everyone out there searching for love and the meaning of life.

Jemima Foxtrot: Melody

Beautifully intricate language, so poetic and mixed in, as the title would suggest, with a’cappella song. Foxtrot plays with humour and the unexpected in this wonderfully crafted piece.

Kirsten MacGregor: Hello Cruel World

I couldn’t believe this comedian was just 18 years old. It wasn’t only her grumpy persona that made her seem mature, but her confidence and comic timing.

Michael Burdett: Strange Face – Adventures with a Lost Nick Drake Recording

Really interesting true story of… well, it does what it says on the tin. There’s a book with lots of people, including well-known people, photographed whilst listening to the a rare recording of ‘Cello Song’ with their stories.

Mark Stephenson: Amsterdam

A hilarious story about an absent father, a beautiful marriage and selective mutism. Or it is? Very much recommend.

Izzy Tennyson: Brute

I find it difficult to create characters that exist beyond binaries of good and bad, yet Izzy Tennyson managed to do this in the creation of ‘Brute’. In the classic conversational style of Tennyson, she embodies a teenage girl to tell a story that is familiar in the sense of going to a single-sex state school, but looking into why girls can be bullies, exploring the complexities of a psyche so often dismissed.

Dan Simpson: Nerdsmith

Reading poems from his Burning Eye Book, Applied Mathematics, Simpson attempts and admittedly fails to get to the heart of an emotional provocation. But at the end, it’s okay, as the audience enjoy his playing with language, from puns to extended metaphors. I bought his book in hope of some poetic inspiration!

Tim Renkow: Kim Jong-Un, Mohammed, Jesus and Other Power-Hungry Maniacs

Renkow was knowingly provocative in his comedy from the onset, warning the audience that his record number of walk-outs is nine people. However, I was most offended by the implication that, in telling an anecdote to illustrate negative attitudes to disability, his erection was due to the woman’s “fear”. There were certainly other moments where I questioned where he was going, but you didn’t have to wait for long to see that he was mocking injustices he sees in society.

So, it was pretty much all amazing…

There were some I enjoyed more than others, but the only show I was completely disappointed by was Tony Law. I’d seen him before, but a majority of this improvised show I didn’t find funny, and on top of that I was worried about him, especially when he started to drink a pint after telling the audience he’s quit drinking. I hope he’s okay…

Nasty Little Press and Festival News

I’m thrilled to announce that this July I will be publishing a mini-book of work as an part of the ‘Intro’ series with Nasty Little Press. In 2011/12 I completed an MA in Creative Entrepreneurship (aka Survival Guide for Artists) and one of the goals I wrote done specified getting a pamphlet published by Nasty Little Press, so… two years later, life feels pretty unreal right now. The books have just come through for me to number and sign – they are a limited edition print of 200 and cost just £2 and will be available to by online and in person.

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Under the ‘Stage’ section of goals in my Arts Plan, after ‘organise my own series of poetry events’ was ‘perform at Latitude’. Through dreaming big and planning pragmatically, I am slowly making steps with my ambitions.

 

 

So, this summer I am extremely excited (and a bit terrified) to be performing at a total of four festivals. First up is Latitude, where I will be performing a mixture of old and new work as a New Voice at 2pm on the Saturday, and 8.30pm on the Sunday on the Poetry stage. Since winning the 16-25 category of Poetry Rivals, I will also be performing an hour long set at Secret Garden Party  at 5pm on the Sunday at the new Amphitheatre stage. Everyone is free to come and go within that hour (except my boyfriend).

Then I’ll be heading to Camp Bestival and Bestival as part of Roundhouse Poetry Collective of 2013-14. This was also listed in my Arts Plan as a goal. At Camp Bestival the collective will performing on Guardian Literary Institute stage (5-6pm) and The Den Stage (Saturday 11am-12pm), and at Bestival you will find us in the The Amphitheatre. Although only a couple of poets photographed on the websites are actually in the collective, we will soon be officially launching ourselves out there, equip with a new name, and hopefully some promotional photographs. We will be performing our final showcase at the Roundhouse on Wednesday 20th August.

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Poetry Rivals

It has now been officially announced that I am the winner the 16-25 category for the 2013 entries for Poetry Rivals. I first entered four years ago, when my hair was much shorter! I performed a piece which is now part of my 15-20 minute poem ‘Circles’, which was inspired by my university dissertation text by Sarah Kane.

I came back and I wanted to win (I came to win, to fight, to conquer, to thrive etc…). The prize is amazing – a performance poetry package with Mark Grist, a professional recording of a poem and a paid performance at a UK festival. I have worked hard to get to a position where I stood a chance in winning, and I would have been disappointed if I didn’t. I attend slams but hadn’t felt that same desire to win before. I guess all the nerves and adrenaline paid off!

I hung out in Peterborough for quite an unnecessarily long time and so I had time to rehearse my poem, though I already knew it well. I know my age and experience may have given me an advantage within this category (I’ve just turned 25), but this certainly didn’t make me complacent. I was really impressed by the quality of the poetry from everyone else who competed. The standard was much higher than when I had been before (in my opinion) and I’m sure that if those in attendance keep writing and getting out there, that they will win another year.

Carmina Masoliver

Again, I thank the judges Hollie McNish, Mixy and Tim Clare. It was great to watch them all perform. Hollie, I hadn’t seen since I started out seven years ago, and I connected to the way she made the personal political, and entwined her poetry with story telling. Having not ever been placed first with my poetry performances, it was about time!

You can read my winning poem ‘Paradise’ here, which I wrote as part of the ‘No More Page Three’ campaign.

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Feminism in London & Reclaim the Night 2013

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Fighting a cold, I headed out early on Saturday morning for the Institute of Education for a day of workshops and talks as part of Feminism in London. Kate Smurthwaite  hosted the event, with opening speeches from Caroline Lucas, Shabina Begum, Natalya Dell and a poem by Leah Thorn. Issues were raised on disability, bi-visibility, violence against women (particularly the rise in acid attacks) and women in the media. All before midday. The rest of the day involved going to particular workshops.

Linked Systems of Power

For this workshops, we were introduced to a panel including Cynthia Cockburn, Pragna Patel, Jenny Nelson and Ece Kocabicak. Leah Thorn was in my group, as well as some ladies I recognised, and one man. We were all white, possibly all university educated and mostly middle-class. This was a common theme for most of the attendees. This made the task quite difficult; we were told to draw on our own experiences and were meant to be making links between Feminism and systems of power connected to things like race and class. I tried to draw the conversation out, but really, the task was flawed in that we needed a variety of different experiences.

That said, we weren’t short of material, and even when it came to thinking of strategies, we didn’t have enough time to get everything out. What I think the whole process showed, was what was needed in the future. Feminism needs to engage with a wider community of people. Perhaps for the programme next year, the conference could be centred around intersectionality. Each workshop could be about how Feminism links with the following: race, class, sexuality, disability, religion, culture, capitalism and gender (one about men and one about women?) – plus any others anyone can think up.

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Kick-Ass Activism

This workshop was lead by some of the ‘No More Page Three‘ team. I was annoyed with myself as I was not as vocal as I should have been, which meant the group I was in took a different route than I would have wanted. I came to the talk to explore what I can do with She Grrrowls, so I should have started off by answering ‘what pisses you off?’ with women not being valued and represented in the arts. Instead we explored women’s representation in advertising and the media. What ensued was a very well organised workshop which enabled everyone to walk away with a new campaign to give a go at running. I don’t have the time to take the lead on a new project myself, so I’m not sure if our campaign will go anywhere.

I didn’t feel we were all on the same page, and there was an argument within the group when the only male in the group suggested a play on ‘that’s what she said’. Another member wasn’t happy with a man making the name up when there were all these women in a group, considering it was a Feminist conference. His friend disagreed and expressed her outrage, called the other woman out for being ‘sexist’. I could see both points of view.

In some ways, it is irrelevant that the idea came from a man as it shouldn’t matter what gender you are… that’s kind of one of the goals of Feminism. On the other hand, if the woman’s tone had been more light-hearted, it could have gone down better e.g. ‘come on girls, we can’t let the boy have the only good idea! Get your brains into gear!’ However, I sensed this woman was serious about what she said, in which case, the others would do well to remember that this woman was more mature and has lived in a time where, it could be argued, women had it much worse off and were silenced. Some Feminists prefer having women only events because it allows them a space where they can have their voices heard, as they are able to express themselves more easily.

The guy argued ‘I’m here aren’t I?’ in objection that he is there, supporting the aims of Feminism… but I didn’t really agree with that. It came off arrogant, like it was enough for him to just “be there” rather than try to understand where the other woman was coming from and playing the victim. I didn’t agree with her, but I thought the whole thing was handled really badly between both parties and it left the group completely fragmented.

Closing Speeches

Dr. Victoria Showunmi chaired the last section of the conference, alongside Gita Sahgal, Femi Otitoju and Finn MacKay. Within this section we heard about Sahgal’s campaigning for secular governing, awards for the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize and the incredible closing speech by MacKay. The words in this final speech reignited and reinforced the reasons why we were there, and why we continue to fight for the goals of Feminism: “our movement is here to change your world and save it for all of us.”

Stop Porn Culture

I booked for the post-conference presentation on porn culture. Although many people already said there are campaigns against porn in the UK, this presentation showed a brief summary of what other parts of the world are doing to tackle porn culture, and examples of the harm it is doing. The examples were fairly obvious to someone like me who, although always in the know about pop culture, is generally aware of things like Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke’s controversy at the VMAs, Rihanna’s new video for ‘Pour It Up’ and the fact that the game Grand Theft Auto includes a part where you can go to prostitutes, kill them and get your money back. For those less aware of how porn culture infiltrates other areas beyond the porn industry, these particular examples were new to them.

I wrote down the question ‘is there such thing as Feminist porn or would porn’s alternative be termed erotica?’ It wasn’t a question I planned on voicing, however, they had set aside twenty-five minutes for questions and answers and someone was talking about how they received backlash from Feminists, including Simone de Beauvoir, thirty years ago after running an anti-porn campaign. They were accused of being moralistic, prudish and censoring. This person seemed to be saying to be careful about how they represent the campaign, but then also said that at this conference they had not been well-received when they were critical of sex-workers.

After this issue of representing the campaign’s message, I wanted to be clear on where they stood with porn. I asked my question very politely as I’m not one to say something unless I’ve thought a lot and prepared what I’m saying. I congratulated and agreed with the negative impact of porn on society, then said I may be naive, but wondered if they had thoughts of whether there is such a thing as Feminist porn etc. I was disappointed when my question was completely brushed off and not engaged with at all, not even to be told what they believed other than something that basically seemed like “go elsewhere, this isn’t the campaign for you, fuck off.” Obviously, that’s not what they said, but from wanting a genuine answer, it knocked me back and made me feel really emotional. Thankfully, a couple of others said that they had been thinking the same thing and a few of us chatted afterwards. If they can’t convince fellow Feminists of their ideas, good luck convincing the general public.

A few interesting points came out of these questions. The first was the very first speaker from the floor, a mature woman who exclaimed she wanted to “reclaim the word cunt!” The microphone was swiftly taken away from both her and me. Someone also argued that in films we see reflections of life, which includes sex. Yet, another person argued that standard films simulate sex, but porn differs in that it is real sex (well… “real” sex) or as the speaker said “prostitution in front of a camera”. I have to admit, it got me thinking… is porn always bad? Maybe it is. That said, I don’t think we should completely ban pornography. Partly because it would be impossible, and the industry would be even worse than it is already. At least if Feminist porn or erotica or whatever you want to call it… if an alternative to the hardcore mainstream porn exists, then maybe there is a way to rule out the wide-spread misogyny in the porn industry.

If we thinking about pornagraphic images rather than films, I would say that it can be difficult to tell the difference between some porn and non-porn images. Perhaps this is an indication of the problem of porn culture, but if we accept the kind of Feminism that doesn’t shame people on the amount of flesh on show, then how can we distinguish between what is considered porn and what is not? Is it measured by the number of items of clothing? What we should really be addressing is the images themselves, whether in porn, in the media, or in art. Do they objectify? Is it misogynistic? Is it offensive and damaging? Surely we can keep our freedoms and speak out against those we think are unacceptable, rather than censor everything pornographic?

I have to say that I don’t know if I can support this campaign. Is all porn bad? I have to say that the jury is out, for now. It is something I need to think more deeply about, but my gut instinct is that I can see the porn industry as bad and believe in the education of young people against mainstream porn, yet I can still believe in a free society where we don’t outright ban porn as a whole. For the viewers of porn, it is about sexual pleasure, but for the porn industry it is about making money. That’s where it gets messy.

The ‘Stop Porn Culture’ conference is at the Kids Club at 10am-3pm on 15th March.

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Reclaim the Night

To finally wrap things up, I met up with a friend for the Reclaim the Night march through London. I’d been before but only managed to make part of it. This time I was there for the whole journey. It was really empowering, but what felt amazing was the support from people on the street as we passed, chanting and taking a stand. After the march, we dispersed and I quickly made my way back to Russell Square. I managed to pick up a Nando’s chicken pita on the way to the SU bar. I performed alongside Rosie Wilby and Naomi Paxton as Ada Campe. I was first on and a little nervous; I think it’s difficult to say “hey, these are Feminist poems” because Feminism is different for different people, but I hope that people enjoyed it and found some common ground. I told people about She Grrrowls, and one fellow Feminist and writer had already been there, which is great. On that note, the next She Grrrowls is Monday 18th November!

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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.

Sex Haikus and Other News

Writing Room banner[2]Coming up is a showcase of the work I’ve been doing with a group of writers at Rich Mix in Shoreditch. I’m determined to learn my lines for it today as we have a meeting coming up when I’m back in London. Fellow writer Ben Jacobs (also a Podium Poet) posted a series of poems by Benedict Smith on Facebook: A Haiku for Every Girl I’ve Slept With. I thought it was a great series of well-executed poems and would love to see the whole series as an illustrated chapbook. Amongst the poems was this one:

8. Tried your fantasy

And pretended to rape you.

It felt a bit forced.

Initially, I felt uncomfortable with the comic intent of the last line: an awkward double entendre. I felt that it undermined real rape by making a joke of it. My opinion on a ‘rape fantasy’ is that it is nonsensical – the very act of rape is something unwanted. Therefore ‘rape fantasy’ is an oxymoron. I thought about a better way to address this issue, assuming that these poems are based on real-life experiences. I came up with this:

A girl says ‘rape me’.

She doesn’t know the meaning.

Singing Nirvana.

However, then I thought that actually, my version is far too obvious. How can I say that this is a better version just because the point is clearer? Is it too didactic? Perhaps, Smith’s poem is actually more successful because of its subtleties. Perhaps his humour points out the ridiculousness of such a request from a girl. It got me thinking about the meaning of the poem, which is surely a sign of success. I’d be interested to know what readers think of this.

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Another couple of things in the pipeline for September include the She Grrrowls launch party at The Gallery Cafe on Wednesday 11th. There are so many talented women out there that we want to feature at future events, so we really hope it takes off! On Saturday 14th I’ll be leading an all-day workshop on the theme of ‘Loss’ at Red Door Studios. It ties into the next issue of Poetry&Paint, so come along to the workshop and get the chance to have your work in the September/October issue of Poetry&Paint.

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I’ll also be getting down to as many open mic nights as possible and hopefully get some gigs, preferably paid! I’m excited about the next year (working at a school, I still work in academic years!) I’ll be super busy as I’m also wanting to take up the ukulele! Wish me luck!533626_564521246927232_1283506101_n

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been staying in Norwich the last week or so and don’t want to come back! I’m going home tomorrow and it’s all gone so quickly. I’ve had a great time and even managed to do an open mic over my time here (as a city so famous for literature, there’s surprisingly few events compared with London). I went to the launch for the Lighthouse anthology, which I’ve now submitted some poems to for the next issue! I got a chance to catch up with poets Chris Ogden and Russell J Turner. Chris told me about this project to do with made-up words, so I wrote a poem on the word ‘Elagon’ – have a go yourself!
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I’ve done a bit of work most days I’ve been in Norwich, but I’ve also managed to have a bit of fun and relaxation. One of my favourite days was the trip to Cromer with my boyfriend and his family at a family friend’s caravan. I had seen the forecast of showers so I didn’t expect we would be able to go. The others went by car whilst my boyfriend and I rushed to the station to make the train to Cromer. The sun was shining through the clouds and I thought I’d dip a toe in the sea. I ended up walking further in and we swam all afternoon. It felt amazing. After we dried off, we had some chips and headed to the fun fair. I’ve also done a bit of shopping, had some drinks at the Rumsey Wells, got an Indian takeaway, saw my boyfriend’s grandparents and tonight we’re having a nice romantic meal.

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Now it’s goodbye Norwich and hello London. I’ve got a performance at Red Door Studios (also where the workshop on Loss is) on 8th August, a trip to visit my friend Hannah in York, then I’m back to the home of Alan Partridge the following week. Maybe another trip to the beach, if I’m lucky.

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Dean Atta Review

Dean Atta’s ‘I’m Nobody’s Nigger’ (The Westbourne Press, 2013)

Since the book’s title poem went viral, Atta’s debut poetry collection has been much anticipated. Having been a regular feature among London’s poetry scene for many years, it was only a matter of time before he got the recognition he deserved, the recognition poets deserve in general, because it is an exciting time when poetry goes viral. But in my opinion, vival poetry doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should do. I opened the book to the sound of a drumroll. Immediately, I enjoyed the contradictions of language, the juxtaposition of words, and the simplicity that can be read into on so many levels.

Yes, viral poetry doesn’t happen enough, yet Atta’s example shows poetry at its best. It is honest, meaningful and has something important to say. In this poem lies a couplet containing raw commentary on a society where ‘stacking paper cos it’s greater than love it seems/call me ‘nigger’ cos you’re scared of what ‘brother’ means.’ Within this poem there is an undeniable power, and there are more moments than this which get your fingers clicking in appreciation.

As the review in Urban Times stated, the one criticism the collection falls prey to, is not getting the balance between ‘page’ and ‘stage’ quite right. That said, maybe the point is to simply get the word out; Atta’s reputation as a performer means that it would be ridiculous not allow his audience the privilege of reading his work. And like I said, the message he delivers is important. What’s more is that he does it in a way that is not so didactic as to make the reader feel preached upon, and in a way that makes him human; “in arrogance and creativity” he paints a picture of society’s troubles in ‘Fatherless Nation,’ with an awareness of his own shortcomings.

Another major highlight of the collection is ‘Key to the City,’ a modern love story featuring John and Melissa, which twists like a knife as you turn the last page of the poem. With many poems exploring sexuality, ‘More Than This’ stands out as one of the best, with great use of alliteration and carefully chosen words, from the first line ‘I knew, before we’d even spoken’ and the image of a night where ‘mouthfuls of beer dislodge illicit imagery,’ to the last line returning to the title.

‘My Love’ is a great example of where page and stage meet, as the rhymes are timed well and thoughtful, words are packed with meaning and the poems forces you to image Atta performing the piece. It mixes humour with sorrow, in images such as ‘It’s glass half empty/Amaretto on the rocks/A friendly drunk/makes love wearing socks.’ Lastly, the poem ‘Lost in Time’ stands out as it is so relatable; my own mind is vivid with memories of a childhood now past. Atta’s collection tells a story of contemporary society in a patchwork of poems about race, sexuality, culture, class, relationships and even poetry itself. What is so important about Atta’s poetry is that it now exists as what will be a relic of our time.