Hypocrite

I was at primary school when I first learnt what the word ‘hypocrite’ meant. I remember because I recall shouting it at other players during after-school netball games. I say shouting, but I’m quite softly spoken and so maybe I wasn’t all that loud. But I remember one friend laughing at me as I said it. Those who get close to me will learn this strange mix of vehement-quiet-girl still exists within me (why I’m so excited for the Shy Radicals book).

It was when I was a teenager, that I began to see my parents – and adults in general – as human beings. With flaws. One of those flaws being that they were massive hypocrites. As a child who had school reports detailing my strong sense of right and wrong, it was only natural that I developed this idea that being a hypocrite was not something I wanted to be, and with that I found it hard not to be overly righteous in defending my views. I never believed that I would become a hypocrite.

But maybe I was wrong. If I am to analyse the details of everything I do, I regularly go against what I believe in. I can do a lot better. And although I’m taking steps towards doing better, there will always be things I do that don’t live up to my ideal version of myself, especially when it comes to making money. For example, my current day job is teaching English as a foreign language. It can be a very rewarding job, yet, a big part of me is also uncomfortable about the fact that there is so much demand to learn English. It reminds me of how privileged I am to have been born where I was. Such a small country, such a widespread language, such a horrible history of colonialism.

And here I am, post-Brexit, living in Spain, not able to speak the language – because if you know English, why bother with any other language? Even the one of your heritage. My plan, to return to the UK, hopefully better acquainted with Spanish, and focus on my career as a writer. I feel I haven’t given myself the chance to properly try to live my dream. For a dream, I know it will seem less of that in reality, that it will be a struggle. But then so is working full-time and trying to work in the arts as a second job. It’s time that I make it a priority.

And in doing that, it’s likely my morals may be called into question. I might still be a hypocrite, and I might face dilemmas. Except maybe the money will be too much of a temptation, because I already auditioned for an advert for Transport for London because it paid more than my annual wage at the time (I’m now earning about half that annual wage, but my mental health is a lot better and I’m living in my own apartment instead of with my parents). And this dilemma is if I am lucky. Whenever I have seen other poets at Buckingham Palace, or on adverts, I have been excited for them, knowing that (despite the moral implications) I would be honoured to be asked and can’t imagine doing anything other than accept it. Even if I did feel uneasy about it.

This is for the same reason that I accepted my first job offer after I finished my MA and stayed there for 4 years. Because I have been taught that things are so bad that I should be grateful for whatever I can get. But right now, I have taken a risk and applied for Edinburgh Fringe Festival and booked to stay at a hostel for a month. It’s nearly double my current rent. I’m trying to save, but I am worried about being able to afford it. I thought about applying for some extra work that would ease these worries – £1000 for a month’s work online – but in the end, I wasn’t sure I would be able to commit to it on top of my full-time job teaching.

So, to imagine the fee that comes with doing adverts, such as the Nationwide ones, knowing that it could enable me to live my dream. It would be too good to refuse. And as another poet pointed out, it is the system that is the problem, and most of the time we are just trying to live. I’ve worked for minimum wage for WHSmith, JD Wetherspoons and Sainsbury’s. It doesn’t mean I agree with what they stand for, so if I was asked to pen a poem for those same companies, would it be any different? Perhaps it would, being that you are publicly associating your own brand as a poet with their brand, therefore it is a kind of endorsement that isn’t as true being a sales/bar assistant, which carries with it an element of anonymity, of being part of a uniformed mass.

In the midst of debate around the Nationwide adverts, although admitting he respects the poets in the ads, poet Luke Wright sparked debate with his poem Renegade Poets, which I think is what was intended. It is not so much the poets in the ads being targeted, but rather opening up a discussion about what it means when we accept these opportunities, especially for those of us who write political pieces and are vocal about things like Feminism and Capitalism. ‘McGough is doing Waitrose, and Clarkey’s doing chips…’ Wright says, while acknowledging it’s not about one specific case, and that it’s not new.

He laments about the art that is lost, the compromise you have to have, when selling your work in this way. One line that struck me was: ‘if nobody wants to see your show, it’s probably not good enough’, because part of me thinks there’s more to it than that. For example, with She Grrrowls, the audience can vary widely in numbers, and sadly I think being a feminist night, featuring women, this makes it more niche. Then again, there’s also music and comedy, which are arguably less niche than poetry. I have also had a promotor basically tell me that I don’t bring enough audience to the show. Whilst that may be true, I would never say that to one of my acts. It’s rude and patronising.

Nevertheless, the sentiment harks back to that line in Wright’s poem. If you are familiar with Wright’s work, you’ll see that at least in this sense, he practises what he preaches. How do you make something good enough? You work hard at it. At the night Homework, as well as in his solo shows, you can see the effort that goes into creating quality pieces, and the poem Renegade Poets is a great poem too, with an ending that really drives the point home.

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The point being to think more about making these decisions, instead of doing what I imagine I might do – just see the money and and say yes. So, yes it’s important to think about this topic, but at the moment, I don’t think I’m able to make a decision. I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong in all contexts, but something that comes down to an individual company and what they stand for, and the person making that choice.

When I did my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship five years ago, part of me thought that if I had the right tools I could be successful in the arts. I grew up with two teachers as parents and they worked hard in their field and have been able to provide me with a good life. I have become slightly disillusioned since graduating and working, that although we were taught that the “struggling artist” cliche is a myth that doesn’t have to be fulfilled, I still fear know that by taking a risk later this year, I will living on the “cabbage budget” and may never see the “champagne budget”.

Disillusioned, but only slightly. I still hold on to my dream, and feel I have to give myself that chance. On another  related note, Roxane Gay recently pulled publication of her next book How to Be Heard after ‘alt-right’ Milo Yiannopoulos received a $250,000 advance from Simon & Schuster. It is an act of protest. She has been able to stand by her morals and principles, but she has also been quoted by The Guardian as saying ‘I can afford to take this stand. Not everyone can. Remember that.’ Whether these moral choices are something we can do from the start of our career, or whether it is something success enables us to do so is still up for debate. I may be a hypocrite now, but I will try to push myself and do better.

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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Shake the Dust: East Regional Finals

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.

The National Shake the Dust Slam Final is held at Southbank between July 5-7th.

May the Birthweek Commence

Yesterday I handed in my latest four pieces of coursework, including my interview piece with Benjamin Zephaniah. I met with my Gran at the Tate Modern, where we started our day with the Yayoi Kusama exhibition.



I first came across Kusama whilst studying my art foundation at Central Saint Martins and I became fascinated by her use of polka-dots and her use bright colours, and her poetry. I bought a book of hers which I sadly lost in a photocopier (or so I suspect). I did write down this quote:

“A polka-dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm Round, soft, colourful, senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots can’t stay alone; like the communicative life of people, two or three polka-dots become a movement.”

I was also inspired by use of cherry blossom depicted in the poem below, which I used in my paintings in order to symbolise the conflict between childhood and adulthood.

I want to eat cherry blossoms.
I want to kiss their pink colors.
Their scent that would have reached the universe dissipated in my youth.
Remembering that, now tears roll down my eyes.
Scattering cherry blossom petals on the path of my faint love, I will be facing death someday.
When that day arrives, all the love that I have had in my past, I will enwrap life.
On that moment, the flower path of cherry blossoms will envelop the whole of me without fail.
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms.
They explore my life and death.
Dear Cherry blossoms, I thank you


I first saw her exhibition at White Cube, and so this exhibition was interesting in terms of exploring the variety of her work, of which I loved every bit.

We went for a quick meal at Mon Plaisir which was nice. The main meal was quite small, but the desert was lovely – a rich chocolate mouse with a passion-fruit ice cream. Then, it was time for my birthday treat – Matilda the Musical! I thought it was good that it was faithful to the story-line but also was not restricted by it, making adaptions, and infusing more magical threads to the narrative. It did feel really magical and I loved the songs, as well as some of the messages they conveyed about being the writer of the story of your life, and although the main star, Matilda, is generally a good girl, that ‘sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty’ when you feel like something is not right to you.

In other news, I’ve had a couple of rejections – the Charles Pick Fellowship and my first application for Arts Council funding. I was disappointed that I’d had to email to ask about the Fellowship and that I would have not been contacted otherwise. I’d had a nightmare about not being accepted for it so it was really gutting that I’d not even made the short-list. Next year I think I’ll reapply with my novel idea, as maybe proposing to write a series of children’s short stories was not good enough, especially as a faculty member at UEA had told of the polarised views of children’s literature by the other staff.

I didn’t expect to be successful for my first arts council application. As I have the money to put my event on from being a Poet Shadow in Shake the Dust, I don’t have to worry about actually not being able to afford it. Though, making a profit will be unlikely. And although you can’t make a profit with Arts Council funding, it does mean the money isn’t coming out of your own pocket, resulting in a loss. Anyway, I emailed for further feedback and got a great response and so have lots to learn for any future applications. Particularly the idea of whether I actually do want to do any more events – do I want to be a writer or a producer? I’d say 100% a writer, first and foremost, but that I would like involvements in events and sometimes enjoy putting on my own events. Also, this pilot project is more about just putting myself out there and learning from the experience, so we’ll have to wait and see!

xxx

New Year; Same You, But With Added Shine, A Slicker Rhyme…

A belated happy new year!  I have just handed in my coursework today and have lots of news to share.  Christmas, by the way, was wonderful – the best ever!  Here’s me celebrating family-style with some of my new clothes (Primari aka Primark).

The first news story is a sad one.  I write this blog for my website but I also post it in other places, and one of these places, Inked-In, is closing down because some company is taking over and wants all the rights to the content.  Totally out of order.  Not happy.  I’ll probably stop writing on there now because I want to have the rights to my content thanks.

Anyway, onward and upward!  I have found an amazing function on Excel that means I don’t have to use this Smartsheet thing I was using that ended up being a free trial and asked me to pay for it.  As if.  So yeah, genius that I am, I figured out you can sort a to-do list on Excel; my list is sorted by the ‘status’ (i.e. whether it’s been started or is complete) then by the due date, and then by a daily ordering system, should I need to do work on something that has a due date way in the future.  It’s not a waste of time either, as I have now completed 44 tasks, and started it maybe a couple of months ago.

For new years eve, Matt and I popped round to my friend Jo’s house for a bit because she now lives about 20 minutes walk away from me!  She used to live in Hammersmith so it’s great she’s so close now.  It took us a bit longer as I took a wrong turn, but good to know for future reference as last time my mum was my taxi.  Jo had fireworks and it was a bit scary but also very pretty and overall, amazing.

Matt and I celebrated our 6 month anniversary on January 2nd at Los Amigos and it was delish.  We also saw a ‘Havana Club’ sign which was cool because we met at a club in Norwich called Havana (now called Kartel).  It was a bit quiet but we had a lovely time.

On that note, I’ll say a little about new years resolutions.  Now, I’m the kind of person that’s always trying to self-improve… a kind of perfectionist, I guess.  So, new years resolutions are something I try to do at various points in the year anyway. That said, my main aims for 2012 are as follows:

– Read more poetry.  Well, read only poetry, aside from non-fiction books used for study, and the occasional fiction book for if I want a break from just poetry.
– Resume my exercise routine.  Try to go to the gym 1 or 2 times a week, and do at least 15 minutes of exercise in the morning before breakfast.
– Keep up a regular beauty regime.  Cleanse, tone, (exfoliate), moisturize.
– The last two points means I need to get early nights.  And wake up early-ish.  If I don’tget enough sleep I get lazy.

And now, for some poetry news.  Firstly, I wanted to say how great it is that Dean Atta has shot to fame, so to speak, after posting ‘I Am Nobody’s Nigger’ online.  As I stated on Twitter, I guess I’ve been “deeply immersed in the world of spoken word,” (quoting The Guardian) because I remember Atta being a regular name since I started out in around 2006.

Not wanting to draw too many comparisons, but, I had previously read Carol Ann Duffy’s Stephen Lawrence tribute poem and been disappointed.  I actually began to have a go myself but am yet to finish it.  I just found her poem too obvious, and lacking emotionally.  And it is a great shame because I have enjoyed Duffy’s work since my GCSEs (though I was disappointed at her reading at the AQA Anthology show).

In terms of my poetry news… I’ve been shortlisted for a £1000 fund on IdeasTap.  My idea may be more suited to another IdeasTap fund I’ve applied for since, and I feel unlikely too get the one I’ve been shortlisted for as it’s quite a long shortlist!  I’ve also been accepted to be a Peer Mentor for Shake the Dust for the Eastern region.  It’ll be really great to give younger poets advice and support, and take part in the regional finals – and I’d love to be a judge!  I probably should have mentioned my judging experience with Scroobius Pip!  It’ll no doubt be a great experience anyway.  I may not have been accepted as a Poet Shadow, but I’ve got the next best thing.  I’ve also applied for the Charles Pick Fellowship at UEA, starting in October.  Thinking about the prospect of being accepted for that excites me too much!  Wish me luck on my endeavours!

xxx

I introduce you to…

Last week I said goodbye to headCRASH Cabaret at The Birdcage in Norwich, at least for a few months. I was the headline act and my boyfriend came to see me for the first time with his friend, both relatively new to the poetry thing. There were loads of people from UEA, mostly patrons of the Creative Writing Society. It was hard to speak to everyone but I managed to chat to a good few people.

From the newbies view, Andy Bennett and Amy Staniforth were the highlights (aside from me, but they couldn’t really say I wasn’t the favourite haha).  All in all, it was nice to have a couple of drinks (one being free) and see some poetry.  I messed up a bit of my set but was happy enough with it, having not performed for a while.  The only bad thing was that it cost me an extra £20 because of some mess with the Job Centre and delayed trains meant I missed my Megabus.  I really need to be getting paid for my gigs.  I think it would be good to aim for around £25 for 10 minutes and under, £50 for 20 minutes, and £100 for 30 minutes and over.

In addition to this “goodbye” have been a few “hellos”.  This week I started the MACE course at UEA London (MA in Creative Entrepreneurship) and I also had my induction at Sainsbury’s.  I have my first proper shift on Saturday and I am really nervous!  I don’t know why, I shouldn’t be nervous, I’m confident I’ll be fine but I just can’t seem to help it!  I think after the first day I’ll be fine, it’s just things like lockers, extra uniform and booking holidays that I need to sort out!  I’m reaaallly excited about the MA though and I can’t wait to get started with the work tomorrow.  My boyf is visiting atm so I’m not going to knuckle down until tomorrow.

xxx

Easter Two-Nighter

Right, because I’m at my London home and using the laptop I spilt water on that doesn’t have the letter ‘g’ (and it’s nearly 1am) I’m going to try to keep it short and sweet.  I’m writing it slightly annoyed because I wanted to say something and can’t remember and have been trying for ages to remember grrr!

Last night I SANG with my frex Will Gardiner who played the guitar for me.  It was for the Late Shift at UEA’s Sainsbury’s Centre.  After years of wanting to do this and being to scared to do it, it was actually not any scarier than reading poetry.  There were some other amazing performers and was really happy to be included in such a fantastic line-up.  Check all these people out: Jamnesty, Rachael Durrant, Vince Laws and David Osbiston.  And if you want to look at how it went for me, you can watch  the video on YouTube… though listening to it myself is a bit cringe and it seemed way better at the time haha.  Also, I was aware I messed up some of the words as I was doing it so that’s never nice to hear.

I continued the night with my friends Helen and Laura, and so it was a proper last night in Norwich.  I came home for the Farrago gig by train and it was long and I had a heavy suitcase, so pretty tiring.  My mum picked my up from Worcester Park station, and of course, when I walked past the traffic, a load of guys were being “ultimate lads” aka “ultimate tools” and shouted out at me ‘alright schweetheart, need a hand?’  I didn’t respond at all, even if I came up with a witty come-back, it would just be giving them what they wanted.  I was in a weird mood, maybe a delayed reaction from talking to a friend earlier about something that’s been frustrating me for a while, combined with nerves and disappointment that I didn’t think anyone was coming to watch me.

However, I was mostly in a positive frame of mind, just had a mini-stress-out.  I’m looking forward to tucking into the best Easter chocolate as well – dark chocolate egg and lots of creme eggs!

So, tonight I had a huge surprise coming out of Goodge Street tube station.  An old college friend, Janet Etuk, who was not only there… but there to see me!  And, even better, Anya Destiney came along too – the girl who you could say is responsible for everyone having to endure me read poetry!  Both girls are mighty-fine actresses as well so keep your eyes peeled!

The other features of the night were Charlie Dupre, Fran Landesman, Clair Whitefield, Sharnika Power, The Wizard of Skill, and AF Harrold.  Charlie, Clair, and Sharnika were all unfamiliar to me and they were incredible!  Espesh, Sharnika, at only 16, she was unbelievably good, so confident and intelligent.

I forgot my camera, which was a shame, since I actually had people to record it for me, and I think it went quite well… though it was cut really short.  Anyway, I thought I’d start posting more photos and stuff to make this more interesting and personal.  Part of that will be pictures of me haha, basically, I’m quite into style (I’m inclined to say style rather than fashion for obvious reasons) and any attempt to go to poetry readings in just a jeans and t-shirt combo never really happens… I like dressing up, and maybe coming from a “dance background” it makes me see it more as a performance with costume haha… that’s why the up-coming Glam Slam is exciting!

I’m wearing a yellow Passenger t-shirt (it was quite cheap at some shop, and I got my friend Natalie Cooper a similar design) with a standard red h&m cardi, and not shown in the picture, a high-waisted black skirt.  Note the badge from Russel J Turner, reading “all you pretty fuckers”.

Okay, that took just under an hour.  I have lots to occupy myself with tomorrow and will hopefully be swimming again, with my mum.  I went the other day in Norwich and it was really nice.  I kinda wanted to go to Tooting Bec Lido but my mum keeps changing her mind.  That reminds me, there’s poetry stuff going down in Tooting, which is where I spent most of my childhood.  If anyone is near 833 Garratt Lane, please ask for my Barbie dolls, I miss them.

xxx