Verve Poetry Festival 2018

Well, readers (if you exist, it feels like writing into the abyss), I haven’t written properly her since Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Most of my reviews are written for The Norwich Radical, and I’ve now been writing for them for over three years as a volunteer. I felt the urge to write having recently come back from Verve Poetry Festival (alas, as an audience member, not a participant).

One of my cousins is at university in Birmingham, so I took the opportunity to get her a Saturday ticket and visit her whilst attending the festival. We had a lovely time, and I discovered new voices amongst old favourites. It was a bit overwhelming at times being surrounded by so many familiar names and faces, and by the end of the festival my brain kind of stopped working, but it was well worth it. I’ll go through some of my personal highlights.

Dead or Alive Slam

I’d never been to a Dead of Alive Slam, where actors read the work of past poets, and compete against the alive ones. I was very much in team ‘alive’, who were the overall winners, but I discovered poems by both I enjoyed. It featured Genevieve Carver, Isaiah Hull and Caroline Teague – the first two being new to me, and all of them brilliant.  Team Death consisted of poems by Christina Rossetti, Forough Farrokhzad, and Djuna Barnes (read by Tembi Xena, Lorna Nickson Brown, and Zeddie Lawal). Djuna Barnes really stood out to me, which might come in handy for the workshop I’m going to run with Spread the Word – The Femme Canon.

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City Poems

This section featured six commissioned poets, alongside competition winners, and was hosted by the judge Luke Kennard. What I liked about this section was that there were so many poets, and so much variety. It can be difficult to listen to poetry across three days (even for us poets) so this quick succession of poets was welcome for a morning event at the start of a long day. It featured local poets including Roy McFarlane, Bohdan Piasecki, Amerah Saleh, Jenna Clake, Casey Bailey, and Ahlaam Moledina. Having been tutored by Piasecki whilst in the Roundhouse Poetry Collective, and having met Saleh on a previous trip to Birmingham, it was particularly good to hear both their poetry. You can buy the book of poems here.

Stablemates: Bobby Parker

Chaired by Jill Abram, creator of Stablemates, there was discussion and poetry from Martha Sprackland, James Brookes, and Bobby Parker in celebration of new work from Offord Road Books. Although I wasn’t expecting it, Bobby Parker was my favourite poet in this section. He was open about the criticism he had received from his poem ‘THANK YOU FOR SWALLOWING MY CUM’, of which I wasn’t previously aware had provoked accusations of misogyny. I read the poem myself and although I think it’s horrible, I think it’s the intention, it being an exploration of this dark side of masculinity and the validation that men may place on such an act. It is simultaneously simple and complex, and I like it and Parker’s other word. I didn’t realise the connection between this poem and Thank You For Swallowing, which publishes incredible feminist writing.

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The Poetry Assembly: Romalyn Ante

Although a celebration of Jane Commane’s Bloodaxe collection, the event was also supported by Roz Goddard, Liz Berry, Romalyn Ante, and Matt Black. My favourite poet was Romalyn Ante, with her slow, rhythmic poetry, with vivid imagery, it was beautiful to hear her recite. My only issue with the programming of Verve Poetry Festival is the division of sections labelled ‘poetry’ and ‘spoken word’, when there were examples such as this where Ante knew her poems by heart and was in the ‘poetry’ section, yet others such as the Out-Spoken Press section were labelled ‘spoken word’ when both feature books.

Out-Spoken Press Showcase

In moving on to this ‘spoken word’ section, I believe one featured poet, Raymond Antrobus, has been quite vocal about claiming the title of ‘poet’ as his own rather than solely a ‘spoken word artist’. This showcase also featured Anthony Anaxagorou, Joelle Taylor, Sabrina Mahfouz, and Bridget Minamore. I’m very well versed on the latter three poets, all three featuring the the She Grrrowls anthology from Burning Eye Books and so it was great to hear them all together at Verve Poetry Festival.

Nymphs & Thugs: Maria Ferguson

The penultimate event I went to featured Salena Godden, Matt Abbott, Maria Ferguson, and Jamie Thrasivoulou. Whilst they were all great poets, Ferguson was my highlight here, and is always completing captivating. After her show ‘Fat Girls Don’t Dance’ (which I have seen and bought a copy of the book of the same title), she is now working on a show called ‘Essex Girls’. As well as her usual fantastic poetry, in the second half of the two hour slot she gave us a sneak peek into some of her writing from the show.

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Luke Wright & Ross Sutherland

Tom Chivers of Penned in the Margins presented the last section I could attend before hopping on my newly booked coach (otherwise I would have been on night buses from arriving by train 1am the next day in London). It think it was actually Tom Chivers who introduced me to the work of Luke Wright and Ross Sutherland just under a decade ago as an awkward undergrad on an internship at PITM whilst studying at UEA. I have since worked with Ross Sutherland during Shake the Dust, and Luke Wright kindly published my small selection of poems with Nasty Little Press and put me on at Latitude Festival, and I have kept following both their work. It was, as always, great to hear their stuff, especially having recently read and loved The Toll by Wright, and listened to some of the Imaginary Advice podcasts by Sutherland.

All in all, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my recommendations (I has taken me a couple of hours of writing after all). Hopefully next year I’ll be writing as a fellow participant! I’ve been officially freelance since October 2017, so stay tuned for when I find time to write about what that has meant for me thus far (clue: I’m still very much settling back into the UK since my return from Spain in July).

 

The Norwich Radical: My One Year Anniversary

The other week I wanted to show Bande de Filles aka Girlhood, to 6th Form students in order to get them to come along to the Feminist Club. They had been keen after having Feminista UK coming in to run a workshop with them. Sadly, my efforts at putting colour-posters up, guying popcorn and even buying the DVD specifically to show the film were wasted at this time. It was rather depressing to hear the music at the start repeat in an empty classroom. I guess they’re overworked. And as an English Mentor, I keep giving them extra reading to do as it is!

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I’ve been writing for The Norwich Radical for a year now, where I look at the arts through a feminist lens. Girlhood was a film I highlighted for its Feminist credentials. So, I thought this would be an opportune time to highlight the articles I’ve written thus far. You can get a whole list by clicking here.

In order of appearance:

I’m Sorry You’re Offended

Sirens at Soho Theatre

Soho Comedy: Women, ‘It’s Like They’re Real People’

Emmy the Great: Oslo, Hackney

The Bechdel Test Fest

Women of the World Festival 2015: Part 1 and Part 2

Three Women Poets

Women Fashion Power: Not a Multiple Choice Question

Woman Verses World

The Place for Poetry: Fragment and Process, Visual Culture and Performance

The Last Word

Soon Every House Will Have One

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To Kill a Mockingbird – Is it Just Me?

In Defence of Telling Girls They Can

Let’s Talk About Sex: The Institute of Sexology and Sex in the Afternoon

Feminist Picks: Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Homework: Molly Naylor and Katie Bonna

Arts Funding: Young People, Women and Intersectionality

Suffragette: The Fight is Not Over

The Hollow of The Hand

Hannah Silva’s ‘Shlock!’

The World Goes Pop

Warsan Shire’s Her Blue Body

Richard Yates: An Accidental Feminist?

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Save Ideas Tap!

In case you hadn’t heard, Ideas Tap is facing closure on 2nd June, unless more funding is secured before then. As they have tried already to get more funding, this is obviously not a sure thing. This news came as a great shock to me, and I had taken for granted that Ideas Tap was a new essential to the picture of the arts today, something that would stand the test of time.

Sabrina Mahfouz has set up a campaign to save Ideas Tap from this terrible fate. A fate that highlights the reality of the arts today, a landscape where funding is constantly being cut, and a government that often devalues the arts, evidenced by these cuts.

Please join the campaign and do anything you can to spread the word, in the hope that funding can be secured for the future. Share this post, make your own, and continue to show yours support the arts in any way you can.

Join the mailing list and Facebook Page and follow on Twitter, and tweet using the hashtag #LoveIdeasTap. Become a supporter and find out more about what you can do to help.

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.

13.08.13 – The Writing Room Showcase

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The Writing Room – showcase at Rich Mix 13th August 2013, 7pm Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA Come hear talented young poets as they take Rich Mix by storm! They’ve worked with some of the biggest names in spoken word. They’ve written. They’ve rehearsed. Now, members of The Writing Room are ready to take to the big stage – and own it.

Hi July!

Firstly, let’s get the slightly embarrassing news out of the way… my poetry workshop had no bookings and got cancelled! It could have been promoted more, as I have been concentrating my efforts on the event (Ram Jam at The Grey horse, on 22nd July) but I spoke to one of the lovely organisers and we thought next year it could either be workshops held in schools (target market) or weekday evenings. Alas, it wasn’t a wasted trip. I dropped more flyers off at the Rose Theatre, I stumbled upon this great band called The Hype Theory playing at Banquet Records – a cool acoustic set with boys on guitars and  a cajón, and amazing vocals from lead singer, Katy Jackson. After the no-show, I collected my festival wristband from the IYAF HQ, and had a free meal from Las Iguanas, with a fantastic service from the manager Jason. I felt like a celebrity, enjoying a Reggae Rumba cocktail, with fajitas, and a chocolate-orange fudge cake for dessert. Something I’m also loving is the emergence of ice-cream parlours in Kingston – Creams and Afters. Maybe my Mum was right after all, and I should set up a business with ice-cream and poetry!

My job is going well, and I’ve been accepted for next year! I’m actually really enjoying working with teenagers – who’d’ve thought?! I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Year 9 students with Kayo Chingonyi, and even got to go to the SLAMbassadors finals, which was the best work day ever! We had the leaving ceremony for Year 11 and I’m really going to miss a lot of them. I’m going to turn down an interview for a job in Norwich; it breaks my heart to but it is much lower paid, and I feel that I’ve got too many commitments in London for the moment.

One of these commitments, and another reason why my work can be so amazing and supportive, is my part in the search for London’s Young Poet Laureate, with Spread the Word. I have been allowed the day off to take part – I was really nervous about asking, because when you work in a school, you can only take time off during school holidays. Tomorrow, they will try to narrow down the competition from nineteen to just six! It should be a fun day and I’m really looking forward it, and would love to even get into the final six, and I think I’d only have one more year to try again. Becoming the first Young Poet Laureate would be a dream come true and an opportunity I would grab with both hands. It would definitely be my big break! Wish me luck!

So far on my journey towards publication has encountered one rejection from Bloodaxe, and a couple of requests for full manuscripts after shorter samples. I was surprised by the speedy response from Bloodaxe, but I shall take the underlining about the quality of the work as a message that it is still amazing. I should also have a piece published in the next issue of DreamCatcher magazine with my new twist on Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz, inspired by the image below, by Matthew Dickerson, as well as my love for Dorothy Parker.

Dorothy

In terms of poetry gigs and stuff, I’ve been to the open mic at Come Rhyme with Me. Kayo was performing alongside Peter Hayhoe and Mike Galsworthy. All the poets were fantastic, the food was delicious (£12.50 for food and poetry!) and the atmosphere was so warm and friendly. Even without Deanna there, Dean Atta produced a wonderful show with his infectious smile and delightful charm. I finished the evening of with a Rumble cocktail and spent the rest of that weekend flyering for the She Grrrowls event on 22nd July. I also got the chance to take part in a workshop with Joelle Taylor as part of the Writing Room – things are really coming together now! I’m gutted I can’t make the Sabrina Mahfouz workshop, but sometimes you have to create balance in your life and I miss my friend who’s up in York! I’m guessing, when I turn 26 I’ll have to stop going to the Writing Room, in which case I’ve got 1.5 years to become a success!

Other cool things I’ve done include seeing Laura Marling at the Grand Eagle Hotel as part of the new Secret Music events, and going to the East London Comic and Art Festival. I had fun dressing up in 1920s attire and exploring different rooms, finding Lindt chocolate and spending time with poet Selina Nwulu in a non-poetry setting. I also have discovered a love for indie comic books, especially Marc Ellerby whose Chloe Noonan comics have a great female protagonist, featuring great artwork and words.

Next up, tomorrow I’m going to eat at Bar Kick and stick around for ‘Kid I wrote back’ which seems like a cool event! I also need to update my events section – oopsie daisy!

xxx

May 2013 – Bang Said the Gun Residency

Bang Said the Gun Residency!
Thursdays, May 9th, 16th, 23th and 30th. 
8pm at The Roebuck, Borough, London.  S