Since my grandad passed away just over a week ago now, I’ve found how difficult it is to experience such close familial loss and try to work at the same time. This week has been a struggle, but when you’re self-employed, there is so much uncertainty about your finances and I didn’t find out about the funeral date until the end of the week, and which days of work would be impacted. It’s hard to even allow for time off, even when it’s so needed. Then again, my cousin has also been in the same position, unable to take time off from her job, despite 3-5 days being the standard, from what I know. It has meant welling up with tears whilst walking to work for 45 minutes, finding more time to talk to family without being able to see them, and writing poems of grief in the early hours of the morning.
I feel like I’m just about staying afloat, whilst wanting to carve time that allows me to realign my schedule the way that is more fulfilling each day. I’m also ordering 25 copies of my book ‘Circles’ from my publisher, Burning Eye Books, ahead of the digital ‘Living Record Festival’, which will be taking place from 17th January until 22nd February, where listeners can buy a copy of my physical book, along with the audio and creative activity. You can now buy £15 tickets for the festival, remembering that this includes a copy of the book, which is worth £10.
I am also waiting to hear the results tomorrow having been shortlisted for the Anthology Magazine prize, so fingers crossed! It would be something positive to hold onto for my poetry career, for sure, but even making the shortlist is still an achievement worth celebrating, something that I forget to do all too often.
So, I have intended to do weekly posts, but when it came to it, I didn’t know what to write about. I had a think earlier today about what I could share, and I realised that I just need to get into a better habit of making notes of what I could share, reflecting on the previous week. I think I sometimes build things up in my head to be bigger tasks than they need to be, so perhaps this habit will help me to be concise and share some of what I’ve been up to, as well as what others are up to.
For example, at the same time as celebrating Trump’s loss in the elections, I believe this is my first poem in a North American publication, in the first issue of nine cloud journal. As I was wary of submitting this piece, ‘Toy Truck’, written as stated after the shooting of Charles Kinsey on 18th July 2016, it was so insightful to see the commentary on the first page: ‘…it’s okay not to have all the answers and you’re kidding yourself if you think you do know the answers. We can merely ask relevant questions and sit with these unanswered questions for a time until we inhabit the interior world of that question and live its truthful response.’ (Vijay R. Nathan).
As I stated in my Instagram post, three years later in 2019: The officer who shot Kinsey, Jonathan Aledda, after being arrested in 2017 and charged with attempted manslaughter and negligence, was found guilty by a jury of culpable negligence. Although fired from the police force, he didn’t serve any prison time. Kinsey could have been killed, and the culprit was instead sentenced to probation and had to write a 2,500 word essay on policing, serving a total of less than 5 months of probation before being released. It won’t even appear on his criminal record.
Whilst looking through a backlog of emails, I came across Laurie Eaves’ post on the Burning Eye Books website, outlining ten tips for writing a collection. It was a great read, and I really recommend it for those who have yet to publish anything. Even though I’ve had a couple of books published, I’m currently working on my first full-length collection. Although I felt finished in some sense, I’ve still been producing work that fits well within my vision for the collection, and I don’t want to rush it, especially as I already have work out there, and other projects going on in the background. One thing I have been trying to do is look at my schedule and how I can make more time for my creative work whilst still keeping everything else afloat.
Although I am largely just trying to get on and ignore the news, I was pleased to have had a negative COVID-19 test, and this was thanks to me doing a ‘freeze and share’ egg collection, as it was necessary to have regular temperature checks and then a test (which I didn’t get the results for, but assuming the procedure went ahead, I assume it’s all good). I had actually had a little cold, which I was paranoid about, but blasted it with garlic, plenty of vegetables and hot honey and lemon drinks, and now I’m feeling better.
Initially, I didn’t think I was coping as well in ‘Lockdown 2.0’, but I think when you compare the fact that my work has increased, and it’s cold and dark, then I’m not doing too badly. I’ve had triggers when it comes to BPD, and within the recent week, I’ve become more accepting of losing certain friends, if only through an understanding that it’s their issues and not me. I’ve actually started the DBP skills workbook I have, and came up with a boss distraction plan. I thought I’d share it below, in case it works for anyone else. I tried to think of things I could realistically do when intense emotions are triggered, as well as some rooted in the five senses (smell, touch, taste, sound, sight).
A friend of mine who has suffered with depression and found living alone in the previous lockdown really tough also has been practising gratitude, which is always a useful trick. Sometimes I can just walk around my flat and feel a wave of joy, and I am so grateful for my living situation now, as even though it’s completely fine to be in your 30s and live with your parents, I realise how much I needed independence as an adult in this stage of my life, and I’m so grateful of my friend who I lived with at university to be reunited in this way once again. It wasn’t healthy for me to be stuck where I was, and feel so trapped, and essentially be trapping myself… when I could have this freedom and form better relationships with my parents as a result, rather than living as a teenager, running home for dinner from the park.
Looking to the week ahead, I’m also excited for The 10 Year Anniversary and 50th Event R.A.P. Party. It’s unfortunate that it’s online, but it also means so many people can bare witness to the incredible line-up. It’s happening this Thursday, and tickets are Pay What You Can, which I certainly appreciated just after my rent went out. Inua Ellams and Theresa Lola are joined by Breis, Charlie Dark, Zena Edwards, Joshua Idehen, Jacob Sam-La Rose, Kae Tempest, Musa Okwonga, Nii Parkes, Gemma Weekes, and Polarbear. I plan to cook and eat in front of it, so I otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend due to my work schedule (although I live super close to The Albany now, woop!). There’s another silver lining to this surreal situation. And on a final note, I was really inspired and motivated by the four-part documentary ‘The Defiant Ones’, so check it out on Netflix.
The past few days can be explained by something that happened to me yesterday morning. I had bought two travel-cards for that day and today. As I stepped off the train at Waterloo and my ticket for the day somehow flew out of my hand. Everything turned to slow motion as it slipped between the train and the platform’s edge and on to the tracks. In a panic, I rushed to someone who worked there at the barrier’s and explained what had happened. He said I would have to buy another ticket if I couldn’t find it, and so he followed me as I sped along the tracks trying to find where I dropped it. Thankfully, I found it and I stopped my shaky panic as another worker lent down with a litter picker and fished it out.
It was a microcosm of the emotions I had been through the past few days. For personal reasons, I had been on an emotional roller-coaster (excuse the cliché) and felt a switch between unlucky and lucky. I’d cried myself to sleep for the first time ever, and learnt that the only way you can combat that is to take some sleeping pills to send you off. The next day I tried to keep my tears at bay whilst doing yoga, being told I was ‘strong’ and to remember my ‘inner core’ (actually something my mum always says, but at this point coming from the dulcet tones of Leah Bracknell). I made my way through the work day at Sainsbury’s and was nearly about to break when during my review session, my manager said ‘you always come in with a smile on your face,’ due to the irony of how utterly rubbish I felt at the time. The review was great and made me feel a lot better about myself and I even managed to get my Saturdays back by asking to change my shift pattern in April.
So, on to more positive and self-affirming things. On 12th January, my eBook was officially released on iTunes. It appears one person has bought a copy from California, so whoever you are, please let me know what you think! I think it’s important to get excited about these little things and to remember the words of Leah Bracknell in day-to-day life. Sometimes I read over my school reports and even things like my Facebook page, just to remind myself of who I am and that I like who I am. My dad has always taught me it’s very important to like yourself. And despite being labeled “shy” by others, my mum has always said I have an inner confidence about myself.
Some other things I wanted to share are related to the poetry of others. At my Aunt and Uncle’s house, which is a lot more like mine will be than the spotless house I live in with my parents, they have a poem on the fridge by Rosie Milligan:
Dust if you must.
But wouldn’t it be better, To paint a picture, or write a letter, Bake a cake, or plant a seed? Ponder the difference between want and need.
Dust if you must. But there is not much time With rivers to swim and mountains to climb! Music to hear, and books to read, Friends to cherish and life to lead.
Dust if you must. But the world’s out there With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair, A flutter of snow, a shower of rain. This day will not come round again.
Dust if you must. But bear in mind, Old age will come and it’s not kind. And when you go, and go you must, You, yourself, will make more dust.
There’s a band that I saw at Bestival, that I really want to see again, called Los Campesinos. I just wanted to share a spoken word section of their song This is how you spell ‘HAHAHA, We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics.’ I find the combination of music, song and spoken word inspiring but, not only that, I find the words very poetic and yet witty and contemporary. Have a read:
You walk in from your mother’s balcony Panda-eyed and freezing cold You bury yourself in my chest to warm I notice the goosebumps on your arms, millions And whether it’s because of the numbers of hours spent laid facedown on my bed listening to white noise, or, well, obviously it’s not, I somehow manage to translate them from braille
The trails on your skin spoke more to me than the reams and reams of half finished novels you’d leave lying all over the place And every quotation that’d dribble from your mouth like a final, fatal livejournal entry I know I am wrong I am sorry
With that, I am going to wrap up. One last thought; if you picked up a copy of The Times today, there was an article by Francis Beckett titled ‘Take the penury out of the penmanship’ which is about my MA course in Creative Entrepreneurship. I’m feeling quite organised and excited, though still a little scared in a Metric-Help-I’m-Alive kind of way.’
Also, I’ve found there’s a Canadian woman who is also an entrepreneurial writer who’s stolen my name! Well, she’s called herself La Carmina, and her real name is Carmen Yuen. I think we’re different enough for it not be annoying or add confusion, but as I like the uniqueness of my name and she’s more well-known than me, it disheartens me a little. But to end, it is important to know yourself and remember your inner core.