Freelance Reflections #44

This week’s biggest news is that I’ve had work published in The Rialto, with issue 96 launching on the Thursday just gone. My poem ‘my name in an english accent’, is about my name. It deals with the experience of being ‘Othered’ because of it growing up in the UK, and my experience of then living in Spain, where my Englishness was more apparent than ever before, and talking to someone I met there, who I never became as good friends with as I would have liked, but felt an affinity to, perhaps as they were from Norwich, where I went to university, and perhaps also because our conversations were deeper than a lot of others when getting to know new people in a new city. 

I’ve tried many times to write about my cultural identity, and my Hispanic heritage, and with this poem I feel I’ve managed to capture what I wanted to say in a satisfying way of which I’m proud. It’s a complex piece that deals with other things aside from being just about me, but I also feel like it’s easy to understand the meaning. The issue features work chosen by Degna Stone, seeking to bridge the gap between the stage and the page. Most poets will know what an achievement it is to be published in The Rialto, but I hope many others will read it too. 

I’ve also recently been published internationally in Hong Kong’s Proverse Mingled Voices 5 (The Hungry Caterpillar as a Body Positivity Icon) and Untitled Voices: Issue 3 Volume 3 (Tattooing the Moon). I’m really proud of the poems in each of them. The first two can be purchased online in print form, and the latter can be read online for free. 

I read and reviewed Rosie Wilby’s ‘The Breakup Monologues’ just across one weekend, which is very fast for me (I’ve got several books on the go, some of which I’ve been reading for a year or two!) The temptation of sunshine has got me reading more! Keep your eyes peeled for a review in The Norwich Radical soon.

I also went to an Apples and Snakes workshop on first collections with Lewis Buxton, who I’ve not seen for years, but felt inclined to mock his “Yorkshire” accent; I remembered many things about him, including his love for Simon Armitage (hence the impression), his desire for neat stanzas, and the fact Roger Robinson once questioned why he didn’t read poetry books cover to cover (he does now). Now, I just need to get into gear to work more on my collection, which seems to be ever growing as time shrinks.

Next up, poetry-wise, this Saturday 19th June, I’ll be holding a stall at Camberwell Arts Market from 9am – 5pm. I’ll be selling books, paintings, and providing some bespoke poetry at bargain prices! I just have to get organised this week, and dust off my iZettle ready to sell out my stock!

Freelance Reflections #43

So, I smashed my 300,000 steps goals for May, raising money for Leading Lights. You can still sponsor me and donate here. I also missed some steps when I went to play basketball and left my phone, but I recorded 307,372 steps.

I took some time off for the interment of my grandad’s ashes, and spent time with family. It was sad, but it was nice to be together finally and look back at these old photographs. I hope to visit again in the summer and reminisce some more through more photo albums.

Having had the half term break, this usually means less students for me, and I only had two, so it would be a great time to buy some of my books from my Big Cartel. Also, if you’re based in South East London, I’ll be part of the Camberwell Arts Market on Saturday 19th June, 9am-5pm. I’ll also be doing some bespoke poems there; you give the ingredients, and I’ll create a short poem for you.

I’ll also be doing my first in-person live show on Sunday 4th July as part of Simon Mole’s Poetry Picnic at Arts Depot, where I’ll be sharing a new poem written especially for children, aimed at a slightly older age range, probably between 9-13. It’s just under a month away, so I’m sure it’ll come round soon enough!

Otherwise, I’ve been keeping up walking alright, not always keeping to the 10,000 goal, but enjoying some sunsets ping pong along the way. It’s also been nice being indoors again at board game cafes, and now the sun is peeking through the clouds now and again, I’ve taken a few breaks to sit in the sun and read. I’m currently reading comedian Rosie Wilby’s The Breakup Monologues, which I’m reviewing for The Norwich Radical, so technically it’s also working. I’m really enjoying it so far.

Freelance Reflections #41

This week I’ve had my energy back for content writing and tutoring, though I’ve got a horrible rash that is itchy and persistent. I’ve also been back at the gym, right in at the deep end with a 7am boxing class. I didn’t think I’d want to go back, but I do, and I’ve since been to a Soca dance class and Legs Bums and Tums. I’ve also started a low-cost therapy, and thought swimming would be good to do afterwards (though I did get stressed out being too slow for the medium lane and too fast for the slow lane!)

Aside from the usual work, I’ve also been applying for another round of funding, I’ve got a confirmed live poetry gig in July, and I’ve had a few poems accepted, with one in particular I’m really excited about coming out! This weekend I covered a creative writing workshop with a small group of children before more birthday celebrations. Sunday went super fast, so I completed a few things on my to-do list between 6pm-10:30pm after having been out in Brixton most of the day.

After a couple of orders for books, I still have plenty more stock available and have just ordered some pink envelopes especially for the ‘Circles’ book, so please do head to my Big Cartel and order a copy. If you’re feeling generous, my latest self-published pamphlet is also available, though probably won’t fit in the pink envelopes.

I’m also on 186,390 steps and need to complete 300,000 by the end of the month to raise money for Leading Lights. It’s a fantastic organisation I work for that provides social care and alternative education for those who aren’t in mainstream school. I still need to do 14-15,000 steps a day to meet the goal! If only I had been ill during the Easter holidays, this would have been far less challenging! Sunday was actually my best day so far, with 17,455 steps. We’re very close to the goal, and it would be lovely to get some messages of support on there for me too!

Freelance Reflections #39

The best part of this week has been working with Simon Mole and a group of other poets on Zoom workshops to write and perform poetry for children. I wasn’t the only one feeling nervous, as the children joining were not only to be our audience, but also our “poetry bosses”.

The children were amazing and it was such an incredible experience, even being online. It was so lovely to hear positive feedback from them, but also how engaged they were in the topic, that my poem got them thinking and debating about it.

It was interesting to also hear what the other poets came up with, and next week will be the final workshop, where we’ll get so share some of the other work we produced. Hopefully we will get to perform our final poem in front of a live audience in the summer.

Otherwise, the week has been pretty normal. Emails are piling a little bit again. I’ve had applications rejected from ACE’s DYCP fund, The Museum of Banksy, and a content writing job. However, I’m also now thinking more long-term about the work I’m doing, and planning to apply for a part-time MA in Art Psychotherapy, for which I would get a loan out to pay the tuition fees.

Selected Poems 2007 - 2012

Most art therapists are employed on a part-time basis (I’ve seen jobs between 4-22 hours a week) and can work on a self-employed basis once on the HCPC register, and being an artist is an important aspect of the role. With this in mind, I’m excited to put out my book ‘Selected Poems: 2007 – 2012’, which is a selection of poetry and mixed media illustration from the first five years of when I started to get into poetry on the stage and page. I’m still awaiting for the final proof copy to approve, but I’ve added it to my Big Cartel and it will also be available on sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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 #26

It’s the second week of Living Record Festival, and after just five ticket sales, I’m being reminded that it’s better than nothing, and to hold on to the reasons why we do this, why we create and put it out to the world. It’s not the number of connections, but the connections themselves. So, I’m holding on to this lovely comment I’ve been given permission to share from Jodie Adams.

I’ve reached out to family members, which has been encouraging. After over a decade in poetry, it gets harder to ask for support from friends and family. A part of you thinks, shouldn’t you have an audience by now? Shouldn’t you not need them anymore? These kinds of thoughts can lead to a bad spiral, so sometimes it’s best to just ask directly, appreciate those who give the time, and understand those who don’t.

So far, my maternal grandmother and one of my cousins have sent me pictures of how they listened. I love how my gran has put her margarita inside the circle as something she loves, and how both of them have created such a nice space to give themselves that 15-minutes to focus on listening and colouring.

When you buy the audio stream of Circles, for £5 as well as the audio and the Zoom Q&A, you get a copy of this black and white PDF of the book cover to colour in and draw inside, following the instructions. I also had a go at it myself and just about got the flowers coloured in by the end, finishing with this new doodle that was inspired by an exercise my friend Natalie Cooper (who illustrated the She Grrrowls anthology poems). I have often doodled and actually, as someone who is more of a conceptual artist (when it comes to visual art, this is always what I say, tongue-in-cheek, having illustrated my ‘Circles’ book myself), this is something I’d love to do more in an active way. After talking to someone else about their art therapy, which sounded like it incorporated similar techniques, I find it fascinating how doodling allows the free flow of moment without a plan, in a way that is so opposite to how I often work and live.

Lastly, I also want to recommend the film ‘Soul’. With everything that is happening in my life and other people’s lives at the moment, it was just so heart-warming and appropriate. I also recommend the short film on Disney + that goes into the background of the film.

Freelance Reflections #19

So, what can I say about this week being freelance? Well, I have a bill of nearly £1000 coming my way from overpaid tax credits in 2018-19. The good news: I earned more money than in 2017-18. The bad news: it’s 2020, I now pay rent, the Christmas holidays are approaching, and we’re in the middle of a pandemic. With that in mind, I’ve been taking the opportunity to plug my book, ‘Circles’.

Circles is an epic poem inspired by Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis. Taking the point of view of a suicide victim’s lover in the play post-death, the piece takes place on London’s tube network and follows the fragmented views of this once-absent character. It is a piece about love, loss and the line between sanity and insanity. Whilst fictional, the emotions and experiences are also inspired by elements of the author’s life, and are written with the aim to bring comfort and healing to those who can relate to its themes.

The book was published last year and I began to tour at the start of the year, and then… you know the rest. If I sold just 100 copies of this, then my bill would be sorted, so if you’re reading this and can spare a tenner, order a copy for yourself. If you can spare more, why not buy some for your friends and family? And if you can’t afford it, a share on social media or any way you can would really help.

I shared extracts from ‘Circles’ on ‘Spork’ in place of the real-life gig from my tour dates. It’s available to listen to on Spotify, and I’ll also be recording an audio version of the whole poem for The Living Record Festival in 2021, so watch this space for updates on that.

“I speak and the only voice I want to hear is yours” This is a quote from Carmina Masoliver’s stunning epic, Circles. Yet, I find myself feeling this way about her voice. Carmina has a very special way of finding the smallest of cracks in your heart and filling them with visceral, yet elegant poetry. She mines the mundane; those everyday moments riding the tube, or in the shower, or sitting with a stranger on a fence, and she brings you into them so gracefully, before you know it, you are sitting on the tube with her, “holding onto her hand in a reverie.” – Sabrina Benaim

‘This poetic dramatic monologue is at once lament, and testament to an unimaginable reality. Masoliver has created a theatrical poem that is both haunting and ethereal, where the audience experience the world though a protagonist trapped in on a train looping the central line and and her recurrent memories of a lost lover. The fragmented beautiful lyrical prose unfolds like a smashed mirror, each piece a jigsaw. Circles takes us effortlessly into the head of a suicide victim’s lover in order to illuminate the devastating effect of her grief. She captures an elusive emptiness whilst hypnotising us with an honest lyrical epic.’ – Malika Booker

I have five copies of my book in stock, and five more of the She Grrrowls anthology, so even if I sold those ten books, it would be lovely (as I would have to buy another big lot of books from the publisher in order to sell more than five of each). You can get them from both Burning Eye Books directly too, and I will be sure to plug again once I’ve sold out.

Tonight, I’ve just done the final Instagram Live show for She Grrrowls until next year. I’m giving myself January off, so the next show will be February 2021! It was particularly exciting to have fellow Burning Eye poet Cynthia Rodríguez share their work, which I loved during the She Grrrowls tour, when collaborating with Leicester’s Find the Right Words.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to find some balance between being horribly productive with all the stuff I have to do, doing the more creative stuff (when, oh when will I have time?) and giving myself a break and resting. This weekend, I’m having an actual weekend filled with mother-daughter Christmas shopping time and chilling the fuck out on Sunday with some wintery walks or something.

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!

Las Chicas del Cable & The Spanish Civil War

I recently finished watching Las Chicas del Cable and so I thought I would share some extracts from my poem on the topic that dominates the final series: the Spanish Civil War.

They greased their rifles with olive oil,
with Vaseline, with cold cream, with bacon-fat:[1]
an opera, with the occasional death.[2]

It was pneumonia they were fighting against, not men[3]
yet some of the voices that cried out in pain were still falsetto,
soon to be broken by the war with thousands dead.

I wrote this at least five years ago after reading George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, which was recently in the news. You can see from the footnotes below, that the poem includes direct references to Orwell’s descriptions. Reading the book provoked me to have a conversation with my paternal grandfather, who lives just outside of Barcelona, after having lived as an immigrant for many years in London. Also a poet, there is tour about him, which the leaflets below are from.

I absolutely loved watching Las Chicas del Cable, and the parts that were about the Spanish Civil War touched me even more because of my familial connection. The ending was so moving and powerful, it brought me to tears. I highly recommend it.

A granddad I’ve never named as such, now through phone-lines
brought closer, he tells me at the end of the conversation

how proud he is to have another poet in the family. I smile,
as my bloodline extends back in time. My family, I think, with war wedged between them, yet in the end, they remained intact.

To read the full poem, you can sign up to my mailing list.

[1]  George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, p. 37 [2]  George Orwell, (Georges Kopp), Homage to Catalonia, p. 34 [3] George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, p. 37