Podium Poets Unite!

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be in the final twenty ‘Podium Poets’ in the competition to eventually become London’s first Young Poet Laureate. As I write, the panel of judges are making (or have made) their decisions on who shall make the cut to the final six poets! All of us now eagerly await the result, sat with laptops or smart phones, freshing our email inboxes. With around sixty applications, everyone deserved a massive pat on the back for making it to this stage, purely on the basis of the quality of our poetry.

And quality it was! Apparently there were people there who didn’t normally perform… this was incredibly difficult to tell. Everyone was so amazing on every level; I certainly would find it impossible to narrow down to the final six. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed and whichever way the wind blows, be proud to be part of the Podium Poets. I had such a great day and I also have to be enormously grateful to my work for granting me leave (as I work at a school, non-holiday leave is quite tricky!)

It was really cool to meet other poets and also pretty unbelievable that we didn’t already know each other – an indication, if anything, of how much talent is in London. Here are some of their details so far: Deanna Rodger (who I know from when I started out and who is pretty much a poetry celebrity), Ben Jacobs (who I’m working with at the Writing Room), Sarah Perry, Bridget Minamore, James Massiah, Rosie Knight, Warsan Shire, Sophie RobinsRobert Somynne, Sonority Turner, Mary Akin, Dizz Tate, and Nik Way. We’ve been trying to get in contact via twitter but I’m yet to find some of them.

Anyway, during the beginning of the day we got to know each other, played games and did different exercises. In the afternoon, nerves were distracted by lunchtime conversation, only to return once the judges stepped in the Red Room, at The Albany. We relaxed playing games, and once we got started, I was engrossed in each performance, and my own went by all too-quickly. I was sandwiched between two of my favourite performances (Sarah and Wasan) but I hope that I managed to stand out. Below is a two-part limerick that I wrote during the morning.

Limerick Part I

In Chelsea, there’s a lady of class,
Who evokes etiquette of the past.
But one day whilst complaining
That decorum was flailing
The wind blew and uncovered her arse!

Limerick Part II

This lady, she let out a gasp
When she felt that sudden air blast.
She heard many sniggers,
For she’d forgotten her knickers!
That lady from Chelsea with class!

The Albany is becoming a regular haunt – and I should probably visit Apples & Snakes to get a copy of my Word’s a Stage performance soon! Tomorrow I’m actually heading there for a Writing Room meeting, so that may be a good time. After the day was over, I went to ‘Kid I wrote back’ as planned. I performed ‘Paradise’ again, as well as a few others. I got speaking to David Marshall, and a young girl who I encouraged to take to the mic the next time. It was also good to see Kayo Chingonyi again, as I didn’t realise he was featured. All in all, I wished that every day could be like that day, and maybe if I managed to become Young Poet Laureate for London, that dream could come a reality sooner than I thought.

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