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.
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!
Friday saw the East Regional Finals for Shake the Dust. I was working with the Netherhall School in Cambridge as a Poet Shadow with Ross Sutherland. I had never done anything like this before so was quite nervous but very excited too! For my first workshop, it was going well as I was over an hour early. However, I got the bus from the wrong stop and ended up being 10 or 15 minutes late. Typical.
As soon as I entered the classroom I had to introduce myself and perform a poem. I hadn’t brought any material, but thankfully my memory didn’t fail me and I did Cinderella (which you can preview here from my book/eBook). It feels like a long time ago now but at the same time it went so quickly. It was great hearing the poetry the students generated and as the first workshop was based around autobiography it was nice to feel like I was getting to know what they were like already.
Although it doesn’t feel like that long ago that I was their age, I am nearly 10 years older than them! At the same time, I did feel a lot older than them, especially when I encountered some rudeness from a couple of girls from the non-competing team. All a learning experience anyway! I also didn’t expect how easily distracted they were, especially as the two hour sessions went so fast. That said, they produced their final poems with great timing.
After celebrating turning 23 I was back at the school and the students had mostly memorised their poems, and by the final session were all performing their pieces really well. Ross and I had swapped the groups we’d been working with and so it was amazing to see the transformation of them both from the mish-mashed bits of texts they had started out with when they were forming the poems. I learnt so much from shadowing Ross, and was also given lots of opportunities to share my ideas and work independently with some of the group. One girl had to join the group for the last session and she picked up the poems fantastically, and ended up being given the “Most Changed” award.
The day of the final was a long one, but an amazing experience. the excitement started at 10.30am when we picked up our t-shirts. The schools started to arrive and it wasn’t long before we headed into a studio for the first workshop with half of the students. The workshop I was in was lead by Tim Clare and consisted of different drama games. It was quite nerve wracking due to the fact that being in a position of authority it was vital I showed that I was experienced and confident through the games. It was really fun and useful in terms of my own pre-performance preparations.
At lunch time I lost Ross and didn’t realise I was to stick with the school, who had already headed off to Chapelfield Gardens with their lunch. I managed to find them but Ross wasn’t with them. Still, I sat down and began to eat. However, mid-meal, there was a big ‘SPLAT!’ sound and we all wondered what it was. I looked down at my leg and I had been POOED ON BY A PIGEON! They all freaked out and one girl was sent into a panic that it had landed on her. No. It had landed on me. Yuck. I sat there in shock for a while, then scraped it off with a twig. Still in shock, I stood there whilst the others moved themselves further from the tree. Luckily, it didn’t land in my hair or anywhere else so I just went back to The Garage to take off my tights and wash my hands. Then it was onwards and upwards as I tried to tell myself that it was good luck…
We did the same workshop again but with different people and it was good feeling more prepared about what was to come and hearing what different people came up with on the spot. I spent our dinner time mostly with Catherine Woodward, who I knew from university, who had taken my place as Peer Mentor and was doing a great job. I’d met quite a few great people that day, including Lara who was from the Writers Centre Norwich, and sounded like she had a most enviable job! We had a quick warm-up with Drew Taylor and then took our seats.
The show itself ended up being fantastic. All the pre-show nerves were turned into adrenaline and everyone gave amazing performances. Although The Garage team were not included in the competition, their pieces throughout were inspiring and moving. As were Drew and Tom’s joint piece about the friendship they formed through the project. My team ‘Can Everyone Get Up And Leave?’ did a great job. Though one of the guys berated himself for forgetting a line, he pulled it off so smoothly that nobody else in the audience would have noticed. They went away with the ‘Best Line in Poem’ though the judges (Luke Wright, Charlotte Higgins and Francesca Beard) asserted there were so many great lines they couldn’t really pick just one! We also got inside info from Luke that he was rooting for us to win the competition overall, but didn’t quite make it to first place.
Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion.
Well, it is Easter Sunday, if there was a time for a non-believing Catholic to post a biblical quote, this would be it. As my nearest and dearest have been contemplating their religion and the meaning of life, I have been getting involved in some actual dust-shaking in poetic form.
My past scrape with an increase in white blood cells has obviously not enforced the idea of resting enough. Prone to type A personality traits, I struggled into work at Sainsbury’s and kept up with my coursework until I couldn’t take it anymore. I eventually took a day off work and missed some of my classes for my MA, and it seems I am being punished for not taking work off earlier because apparently you need to take 5 shifts off and have a doctor’s note to be eligible for sick-pay. Long story short, I’ve done some overtime to make up the hours and eventually got some Amoxicillin which I’m hoping will mean I’m fully recovered by next week.
Anyway, back to the big news! As I mentioned previously, I was chosen as a Peer Mentor for Shake the Dust, the biggest youth poetry slam the UK has ever seen (organised by Apples & Snakes). However, now Sam Riviere had to pull out, I have been promoted to being a Poet Shadow! It’s a great surprise and honour to be selected as a replacement for someone so successful. I’ll be working with Poet Coach, Ross Sutherland at The Netherhall School in Cambridge, who I remember Tom Chivers of Penned in the Margins describing as one of the hardest working poets. I’ve seen him perform a few times and had the pleasure of reading the Twelve Nudes manuscript during my internship at PITM – and in the couple of years since Ross has managed to put out two more books!
Last Tuesday I went to a professional development day for the East region at The Garage and soon discovered I personally knew/had met about half of the people involved, and the rest I (mostly) knew of a poets anyway. I did feel a bit overwhelmed at first, being surrounded by so many admirable poets, but everyone was lovely and I soon got into it and ended up having a fantastic time. I’m feeling more confident about helping out at the workshops and think that it’ll be a really great experience! I feel so lucky to be able to participate as a Poet Shadow, and although I have applied for funding for my own event in August, I will now not have to worry about the financial side as the income from my role at Shake the Dust will cover my basic budget. So, everything’s pretty good right now, just need to be feeling healthy again and have a little bit of sunshine!
Also, my Gran got me a book about Angela Carter – someone I definitely think I should have read by now and want to do in the future. I’m now reading The Great Gatsby, which is also a long overdue read! Now, off to eat some egg-shaped chocolate!
Last Tuesday I went back to Hammer & Tongue at The Victoria in Dalston Junction. I had just been to Nando’s with my friend Hannah and went to the slam on my own. I ordered a tap water, as I am on the “cabbage budget” as my course leader, Ian Chance, calls it. I settled into a comfy sofa at the front and watched the likes of Keith Jarrett and Henry Bowers, competing in the slam in between. I was the only woman competing and there were only a couple of women even at the event. And I came second place! Representing!! Only missed the top spot by 0.2 marks, so I’m progressing. After all these years, thank God. I spoke to a couple of people, including the host of the night, Steve Larkin, and even gave out a business card, though the guy hasn’t been in contact, I hope he will do because I wanted to tell him about my own Jack & Jill poem (though not nearly as good as the one he performed).
I went to another slam and got a good score but was beaten by a couple of people. I was feeling a bit messed about by the host beforehand and it rang true that artists are taken advantage of by event runners etc. I calculated that with around 50 people showing up, charging a fiver-a-head, the artists themselves should really getting paid more than £10 for “travel”. There are plenty of venues that are free to hire, so it is something that really needs changing. I was asked… or rather, just told, that I would be the sacrificial poet and then as I accepted this and made my way towards the stage, I was made to look a fool by the host announcing into the microphone that I was actually going to compete in the slam after all and someone else was going up. I was also told that if I got one of the prizes that cost £5, to put it back… I thought wait a minute, why am I not entitled to get the prize? Because I asked to be on the guest list?! Come on, poets that compete in the slam shouldn’t even be paying anyway. I spoke to a couple of men, one of which I had met a couple of times before, and he has expressed the event is ‘for poets’ rather than ‘for everyone’ so maybe that’s part of the problem as to why the slammers also have to pay. Also! Some of the features hardly had five minutes! It should be 10 minutes minimum really, I reckon.
Anyway, this irritation made me reluctant to want to go back, which is why I’m leaving the event unnamed. I felt aggravated before I went on stage, and that’s just not how it should be. There were plenty of events to choose from that night, so I could have gone elsewhere but I didn’t. Maybe next time I will think about it harder.
Anyway, overall, it was a good week. I am getting used to working at Sainsbury’s (although I had a nightmare about uniform and turning up late and clocking in, last night) and my nerves are getting lesser. I am loving my MA course, although I stayed up doing work until 1am the night before it was due, only to find out half of it was actually due the week after, silly me! Things are looking up and I’m thinking of making this WordPress site into my website (part of my coursework) but there are things I need to think about. Life is busy, but it is good 🙂
Before I get onto my first experience of Hammer & Tongue, I have some exciting neeeewss!! Me and Matty D are offishhh, like Facebook official, you get meee?!! We had an amazing weekend, and after posting this picture, I’ll try to remain focused and professional and just write about poetry and shizzle like that.
I’ve been applying for loads of jobs and funding and stuff today, so am going to try to be as quick as possible about this and see if I can finish in under half an hour! Friday, me and Matt when to Future Vintage, with a jazz band and poet, Tiffany Anne Tondut. Matt had a bit of trouble working his way from Victoria to Waterloo, so we missed a bit, but it was good. Bumped into Tim Wells, who told me about this event, it’s gonna be snazzy. My Gran’s visiting from France for her birthday, so I can’t make it.
We went to the Tate Modern for a bit and chilled on the grass near Udderbelly, before going to Poejazzi’s Festival Tonic. Joshua Idehen was hosting and four amazing acts took the stage. First, Harry Baker, who I am hoping will be hosting my gig at The Tea Box this Friday (8th July). Next was Fiona Bevan, a singer who was probably my favourite performer of the day – a bit like Regina Spektor meets Shingai Shoniwa (The Noisettes) with a pinch of Ellie Golding. Next was Ray Antrobus, who I’ve now probably mentioned a few times – Matt could particularly relate to the sober-guy-at-the-party poem after his sober months. Lastly, another musical act Belle Moore-Benham with an incredibly powerful voice.
Oh yeah, and we saw this fox. Urban Fox. Pretty cool… if slightly scary.
Saturday, we went to see Sexing The Cherry, again, around Southbank. It sounded cool, as it combined spoken word, animation and music. At first I felt pretty tired and unimpressed, but towards the middle it picked up and there were some really good lines and ideas expressed, a great musical section, and beautiful acrobatics.
We went to Soho to check out Pride festivities… I was a terrible Londoner and couldn’t find Trafalgar Square so we missed some reality TV stars, but it was fun just walking around and I’m cracked open a couple of cans and we had a little dance and listened to some live music where we could find it. We didn’t see the parade so I defos wanna check it out next year. I saw Romy from The XX passing by in the opposite direction but it was pretty packed and we’re both pretty shy people, I guess, so we just moved with the crowd. I think it was the first time I’ve seen her since the band got all big as well, so it’s pretty weird after seeing loads of pictures everywhere and music everywhere.
Anyway, Monday, Matt went back to Norwich (long distance gaaah) and I went to Hammer & Tongue with my mate Elliot Snook… he’s putting on a clubnight, which I hope to go to, so YOU should defos go as well.
Angry Sam was hosting but he didn’t seem to remember me from Glam Slam – I guess he’s a busy man. Chester P and Mungo were the feature and they were on for about an hour. It was really interesting and very different form when I saw CP support Jamie T in Norwich. Some of it went a bit over my head, and then some of it made me unsure if it was bullshit or genius… there were probably a few too many drug references but ah well, do what you know and all that. The Slam was afterwards and I was on penultimatly which had my nerves going a bit, but I was pleased with how it went and I came third place, which I didn’t expect and it’s pretty cool to get a position even without winning. I can always try again. What was amazing was that, amongst a couple of compliments, one guy said I was his favourite of the night, and said the rhythm and delivery were particularly good. In hindsight, I should have given him my business card, but I feel a bit cringe doing it without actually being asked… a bit too pushy? Or am I being silly?
Peter Hayhoe won, who I saw at Tooting Market, and he was cool. Ahhh. Gonna have to wrap up, I’ve gone way overboard.
Last night was the Farrago Zoo Awards and New Year Slam. I hadn’t been to a slam there for ages and so, despite the depressing weather and sore throat, I went along with my new Motel dress and newly cut hair. I was asked to read out an award that went to Fran Landesman, and this made me more nervous than performing my poetry, especially as there was a name I was worried about pronouncing properly, but I think it went okay. It’s a bit of an honour to present an award to this lady, clad in an Iron Maiden t-shirt, she’s still rocking and holding her own for the older generation.
I didn’t have any friends with me this evening, but was introduced to photographer Oliver, who sat with me through the first half before getting a better view from the back. Ray Antrobus came to talk to me as he saw me on my own, and told me about a new poetry event that will run in the daytime on Sundays, welcoming more “page poets” than perhaps other events to add to the Chill Pill events. I assumed the implication that I was more of a “page poet,” though I try to present myself as bridging the gap between the two. That said, I would like to see the pages I am on, as I have only been published a handful of times in magazines. A major problem for me, other than confidence issues, is my bloody memory. I need an autocue or something! Anyway, he’s a lovely guy and very talented performance poet haha.
The slam itself was won by a girl I can’t remember the name of or find via the internet but I knew she was going to win before the scores were shown. She did a poem about weave, which reminded me about when I watched Good Hair last term, and was in a similar sort of humour to the film: amusing, but with more serious undertones. I was pretty close to winning, I think by like 0.5… if I remember correctly I got 6, 7, 7.4, 9 and 9, so I was pretty pleased.
So I’m not mentioning the same people over and over, I’m just going to mention a couple of people to check out. First of all, Vanessa Kisuule, who I mentioned won the slam (when I was featured I thiiiink). She’s so good I hate her. Not really, I love her, but am a bit jeal of her, in an inspiring way though. Btw, I’m loving the abbreviated ‘jealous’ ever since The Only Way is Essex. If anybody has Kirk’s number, heeeeyyy there! Anyway, another one to watch is Mab Jones, she was perfectly hilarious. They both deservedly won awards, and to prove I don’t really hate her, I did vote for Vanessa.
I’d actually forgotten I had to pay entrance of £5 so I could only afford one drink. It was probably for the best as I’d already had a bit and drank water instead. At the moment I’m checking out the NME one’s to watch for 2011. I’m so out of touch so I figure it’s a good idea. Only a few stand out so far, but I’ll have to look into them more to see what I really think. Although, this one female singer, Spark, appears to have a similar hair-do to me. Mine is basically very short at the sides (man-short) and the middle section (and a bit extra) is long and is brought forward. The back has already grown a bit, and as they shaved my neck a bit I’m slightly worried what I’m going to do about that… attempt to shave it myself? Eeeek!
Anyway, before I start talking about Keith Jarrett’s beautiful poetry with his eyes that make you think of sparkly chocolate buttons melting, I shall go and give myself a bit of time before watching Hustle. Though as it’s taken me an hour to finish this, I will have to save the bath until 10pm. Then I shall be a good girl and read The Female Eunuch in bed. Before that, I shall leave you with a quote from Germaine Greer herself:
“I’m sick of weighting my head with a dead mane, unable to move my neck freely, terrified of rain, wind, of dancing too vigorously in case I sweat into my lacquered curls. I’m sick of the Powder Room. I’m sick of pretending that some fatuous male’s self-important pronouncements are the objects of my undivided attention.”
Since writing the book though, she wrote a terrible piece on Mrs Obama’s dress which i wrote a poem about but it’s on my external hard drive in Norwich.
I was feeling excited about going to Farrago, as it’s a place I’ve been many times and it’s a place I feel comfortable in. However, I ended up with NO FRIENDS coming to see me. As my personal life’s been a bit up and down, losing a few friends and that, I had to just not think about this too much or I knew it would get me down. When I am friends with someone I see it as friends for life, so it has been upsetting, but it’s good to keep busy and take my mind off it all.
Anyway, luckily everyone is friendly at Farrago, and an Australian guy who sponsors poetry and puts on events chatted to me for a bit and even bought me a drink. AF Harrold was on first, for his first 10 minutes, but to be honest, as I was on next, I couldn’t give a proper opinion on that as I tend to get quite nervous before I go on.
I really enjoyed my performance, although I’d planned to do one more poem, I knew I was limited to 10 minutes so was happy enough to end it on ‘Roots’, the poem I wanted to finish with. I tried to do it off by heart and was pleased with the amount I had remembered, as I only made a few strange slip-ups like saying ‘miss pronoucing my name’ instead of ”miss pronoucing my words’. What was weird is that I was really shakey as well, like, even my legs were shaking! I’ve never really done that so it was a bit annoying! I think I was a bit more nervous as I usually recognise more people in the crowd, and also, I think I feel more comfortable when I have my mates there for support.
I think Suli Breaks was next, if I remember correctly. I’ve seen him a few times before so knew he was gonna be good. He was really entertaining and funny, and didn’t need bits of paper like me! I was a bit ashamed I didn’t know what ‘crepes’ meant, but then again, there is a reason I get emails from Urban Dictionary. Me and slang don’t go so well together, so I need the emails so I can at least know what’s going on around me haha, one of my mates once even said I’m ‘far too middle class, darling’ to say the word ‘sick’.
I think Fran Landesman was afterwards, and I LOVE her, as I’ve seen her lots at Farrago shows. She’s a bit of a celebrity really! Here’s the only picture I managed to take before my batteries ran out:
I think Niall Spooner-Harvey was up next. I’ve seen him loads at Farrago shows and think he’s great, so is always a pleasure to see him, especially after such a long time as I got to hear a whole load of new stuff!
It was good to hear AF Harrold again, as I couldn’t take it all in as well as I would have liked before. The only thing I would say is that, he probably would have sold more books if he’d read larger sections of his novel, the small sections were funny a few times but it didn’t get the message across. My experience with Penned in the Margins has told me that a big part of selling the books lays with the actual author… not to mention the lack of royalities you end up with! Anyway, John-Paul kept going on about reading the last poem, ‘Cats Are Better Than Fish’ and I have to say, I did enjoy it!
The slam itself was really fun, though I really wanted to have the scorecards and didn’t. There were a few people that stood out, but sadly I can’t remember all their names. One was Amy Acre, who I had been blown away by at the Glam Slam a few weeks ago, and although the MySpace I have linked doesn’t have much on it at the moment, she told me she’s planning to get some stuff up there so keep your eyes peeled! Also, Hannah Eiseman-Renyard, who had been in the Feminist Midsummer Party audience and also went to UEA – I especially liked her last one about being a female writer. A guy called Joshua Morris also walked past me and said he liked my set, he performed in the slam and was pretty good himself, but I feel like he’s an actor… not that that’s a bad thing! I wish I had more acting experience myself. I was pretty chuffed he said that anyway, purely because I thought he was good looking haha! He was directly in my eyeline as well (they always are) so I got a bit worried I was looking at him too much, what a loser haha! At the end a woman also asked me for my email to join some sort of poetry social network thing, called JotSpeak which I have joined. Already someone commented saying ‘Oh wow I saw you last night! I remember thinking you looked like Kate Nash… and sounded a bit like her too. Really liked your set ;-)’
I’m a bit wary of Kate Nash comparisons, since someone made a negative comment once, acting like I was a “wannabe”, although I told them I’ve actually got a poem mocking that kind of judgement and I changed their mind – yay! There’s only been a couple of people that have compared me to her before that, one being a friend who is also an ex-boyfriend of mine, who told my friend (also his cousin) that he thought I looked like Kate Nash (and he loves her up so it pretty much meant he fancied me… how primary school haha). The other was a friend of a friend I met once. Oh! And an old friend thinks I have similar mannerisms after seeing an interview of her. I guess when people say it, it reminds me of the ex, and so it’s a bit complicated, but obviously I want to be myself. I certainly don’t think I sound like her though, I’m from the total opposite end of London haha.
I think it’s so easy for people to be compared to Kate Nash, because she’s just a normal girl, and that’s her whole philosophy and why so many can relate to her. I like her for these reasons, and listening to her still makes me feel happy, and that’s what it’s all about. So I’m not complaining about any comparisons!
Wow, that’s taken way longer than I thought! I was doing it whilst watching Dragon’s Den (well want to go to that Vintage shop with yummy cakes and stuff!) so it slowed me down. I feel really in need of water as well!
I’m off with my parents to eat at Strada and see Toy Story 3, so excited!