Another three episodes have been released of Carmina’s Cantata, featuring Caz Smiling, Jemima Foxtrot and Antosh Wojcik. I got to visit Brighton to record with Caz, and we even had a drink afterwards at The Poets Ale and Smokehouse… it had to be done really. I caught up with Jemima in SE London, during her trip back to the UK as she is currently living abroad, and returned to the area of Camden, where Antosh and I first met as part of the Roundhouse Poetry Collective.
Just one more interview to go, I’m currently reading some books about music, making a few notes and collecting my thoughts. I’m really interested in music and emotions, so this is the focus. I’ve just finished a book by Malcolm Budd, and I’m now onto Oliver Sacks. Watch this space for upcoming podcasts – there’s still one more interview to go before a special episode, and then this bonus one where I will share my thoughts on the research I’m currently doing.
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.
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.
Last weekend it was WOW festival at the Southbank Centre. I got a weekend pass, despite being at work on the Friday and having lots of poetry things to do (events and workshops with the Burn After Reading Collective and the Roundhouse Collective). On Friday I also got the chance to go to ‘Poetry Live!’ I felt the same as I did when I was younger, and the teachers and pupils felt the same; Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke are great on page, but I’m not keen on their delivery style, and I felt it really didn’t cater to a young age group, where some things would need explaining further in order to know what they were talking about. It picked up with Simon Armitage, and I tried to enjoy Imtiaz Dharker amongst the other noisy school children in my row. Grace Nichols and John Agard were the favourites, and Benjamin Zephaniah wasn’t there as a surprise guest like when I was at school.
I went to a discussion between Jude Kelly and actress Maxine Peak, which centred around the world of acting but branched out. It was really interesting and I think it was there where we vowed to complain more actively about the things we don’t like, for example the lack of women on panel shows. I’m going to have to start adding letters of complaint and to my ever-growing to-do list as it is a simple way to be active, and if enough people did it, it could make a change. Meanwhile, the odd tweet will help things along.
I met up with Ruth, a fellow Burn After Reading poet, and we watched a bit of Lyrically Challenged before making our way to The Gallery Cafe. I felt each performer got better as it went along, and I preferred them when they had the musical backing as I thought it suited their style more and they were stronger together. The beats in the background added to the rhythm of their voices working together.
I was sad to miss the first session of the day, and the first talk I went to was ‘Cyber Bullying’. I was disturbed and upset seeing Caroline Criado-Perez’s slideshows of abusive tweets; the violent language, misogyny and clear threats (e.g. posting her address) and hearing about Ava Vidal’s having had lynch threats, and online abuse turning physically threatening and having to run for her life. I came to this talk because I work at a school, and what I thought is that I need to explore language more with my students and not just tell them things are wrong. The sad thing is, these conversations are increasingly being seen as ‘dead time’ and my role exists purely to help students get their C-grades. After finding out that it is mostly young girls that use words ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ against each other casually, it has made me feel it is my duty to weave in some Feminism into my lesson plans somehow. In terms of how to deal with cyber abuse, the jury is out. It is about judgement, how much time you have and your mental and physical capacity to engage. Sometimes you need to respond directly, other times you should ignore and respond only on a platform such as a blog like this, and other times, for your own sanity, you need to ignore it. Useful campaigns may take place on Twitter (too large a force to boycott unless a viable alternative is presented, after all, women leaving Twitter will just mean that we are silenced in another area of our daily life), such as #twitterallowsabuse and #twitterissexist so that we can spread awareness and show Twitter negatively for not being active enough (for example, not providing evidence in court cases).
The next talk I went to was ‘In the Classroom’ where a panel of 11-17 year olds were in conversation with a teacher from Mulberry School (sounded so much better than my school). Although it was horrible to hear how prevalent sexual harassment is in schools, it was inspiring to hear such young women participate in Feminism. I asked a question about the dangers of some of the girls where I work wearing the hijab, less for religious reasons, and more for its confusion for being about modesty, with girls saying they see it as a uniform they put on so that boys don’t think they are ‘bad’, therefore as a way of disuading them from sexually harassing them. This idea reinforces the virgin/whore dichotomy and the misogynistic misconception that a woman is ever “asking for it” with what she wears. I was afraid of asking the question, in case Aneesa thought I was assuming anything about her own reasons for wearing the hijab, but she responded with an articulate plea to show girls that they can be whoever they want to be, and to explore issues within relationships between boys and girls.
Lastly, I went to the highlights, where poet Anthony Anaxagorou made a great point about the hierarchy of offensive comments in schools in terms of how they are dealt with. It made me reflect on my own actions and how even as a woman an a feminist, I haven’t treated the sexist comments as seriously as racist or homophobic comments. The ‘why’ is certainly something to think about here, and partly goes along with the idea that if you complain about sexism, it wouldn’t be taken as seriously by SLT etc. which is an unfair assumption. In the same way, some of us seem to accept comments like the ones made from Dappy on Celebrity Big Brother (I had heard about this stuff but I hadn’t actually seen any until now); we complain about it on various social media, but often the action that is needed is not taken because of this hierarchy that Anthony was talking about.
Although I think Anthony is great (check out his political night Out-Spoken), I wasn’t sure about his comment about ‘where do boys go?’ in relation to Feminism, because I believe that they need to learn through Feminism so they know that it is not something that is against them, but it is something that fights for their right to be who they are and who they want to be. I highly recommend this book after seeing Michael Kaufman a couple of times: The Guy’s Guide to Feminism. There are also more books that could be useful in terms of this discourse. That said, I agree it’s not so easy to find, because when you type in “men and feminism” into Amazon, you need to decipher the useful books from the misogynistic ones (and the ones that say they aren’t, but are). Maybe the lack of these books is because of social conditioning, some men only seem to care about these issues when they are about men, for instance, when texting my friend he said he would be interested in going to Being a Man at Southbank, but not Women of the World… whilst I was more interested in BAM than my boyfriend. #whataboutthemenz
Caroline Bird also gave us an insight into the Under-10 Feminists group, which sounded fabulously inspiring, and Shami told us of the importance of legal aid, from her talk ‘State Failure: Human Rights Principles’. There really is too much to include in one post, so I must highly recommend both BAM and WOW.
A quick note of what I was able to go to on Sunday before I went to my poetry workshop. I decided to attend the Funny Women comedy workshop. It was very popular and I didn’t get to share anything, but as much as it would have been good to get up in front of everyone in terms of totally getting out of my comfort zone, the women who did were great and I spoke to a few nice people, including Lynne Parker (the workshop leader) and the stall holders downstairs. Then I went to the workshop/discussion on body image – The Personal is Still Political #ownyourbody. Here I found that 35% of girls have dieted by the age of SEVEN. Not only is the age shocking for anyone, but from someone who has never dieted, it is even more so. But, perhaps most women will find that confession about myself shocking, considering that 9/10 women diet. That said, the biggest reason for me not dieting is not because I have amazing body confidence, but because I like chocolate too much and I have always known it’s stupid and ineffective (93% of dieters regain the weight). Eating disorders also have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness; girls and women are literally starving themselves to death. In this talk, I spoke to a lovely woman who I regretted not keeping in contact with as I went off. It was a weekend of honesty, and despite the statistics and evidence, sometimes you just need some human encounters.
Listen Softly London
My next gig is on Wednesday 19th March at Listen Softly London: Take Stock – A Celebration Of Pen Wielding Women, where I will be performing alongside Sara Hirsch, Ollie O’Neil, Fran Lock and Loren Kleinman. I will be bringing my best Feminist poetry to explore issues of body image, gender roles and rape culture. I haven’t blogged in ages and this has taken me over two hours to write, so I am going to post away and hope to see you next week!
On Saturday 30th November I performed as part of the current Roundhouse Poetry Collective cohort in the Roundhouse Studio. I had just seen Kate Tempest’s play ‘Wasted’ there and so it was pretty exciting to be in the space. We had time to do a quick run through and then the doors were opened!
In the lead up to the showcase, I had suggested the theme of games, after thinking about a piece I wanted to write. Luckily people were on board with the idea and we all got writing. The piece I wrote was a story surrounding a game of Risk. I’d initially written it out in prose for a short story competition called ‘Story Slam Live’, but I never got to share it as names were picked out of a hat and there was a cap. I didn’t realise this, and really think they should have said beforehand as I had prepared it for two months, editing it down to 5 minutes. In the end, I enjoyed listening to other stories and I realised mine wasn’t really a story at all.
My story was based on a real life experience and my first attempt at writing about it was something I needed to get out. The poem that it became was driven by this same necessity to get people to understand the message that my story illustrated. The editing process came through getting feedback. At the Story Slam event I actually had one woman read through it as she was curious to see what I had planned (I had embarrassingly put my hand up when my name wasn’t read out at the start). Then over a few short weeks, with the help of Bohdan Piasecki and my collective of poets, it developed into a seven minute performance poetry piece.
I have provided two recordings here as the actual performance didn’t quite catch the first words. Funnily enough, we got the audience to pick names out of a hat to determine our order. Despite our worries about audience, apparently it was sold out! Maybe because of our run-through, it was less nerve-wracking, but I ended up performing my piece last. I didn’t hear much from the audience, other than one passing woman congratulating me. I was unsure and then feared the feedback from Inua Ellams (Bohdan was away for the possible birth of his child, so Inua kindly stepped in).
As I love Inua’s own poetry, it was especially meaningful to hear him use words like ‘brave’ and ‘gorgeous’ to describe my work. He even said that it broughr tears to his eyes because it was a story of human experience. Although I have had feedback from both him and Bohdan about making the ending ‘more of a purse-clip than a door slam’, part of me likes that sometimes. Part of me thinks that maybe it’s important that it is a door slam, as it serves to highlight the point of why I had to do the poem. And maybe I could have edited it again, but every time I look at it and think about taking something away or changing bits, I realise that it wouldn’t be quite how I want it, and I am happy with it. In a way, not editing it again after this process is a risk as people may not like the ending, but as long as people know it is a conscious decision that I felt was integral to my writing the piece. It is a poem that went through motions of quietness and rage, but ultimately, it was a call to action for everyone to take a risk now and again.
Carmina Masoliver and the rest of the current Roundhouse Poetry Collective cohort are showcasing new work on Saturday 30th November at the Roundhouse at 1.30pm as part of ‘The Last Word’ festival. Buy tickets for just £3!