Bad Poet: Sometimes You Have to be Bad, Before You’re Good

Today, in case you hadn’t heard, is National Poetry Day. I’m feeling like a bad poet because I’m not attending any events to mark the occasion. At the most, I’ll probably watch and listen to all the stuff that’s happening online, trying to understand the mixture of pride, envy and joy at watching/listening to poetry by my peers featuring on national television and radio.

As I write this, I’m on my way back from my day job, where I work as an Academic Mentor for English. This morning I played Year 10 ‘Origin Story’ by Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, whilst trying to convince them to come to my Creative Writing Club. This is something I will do again no doubt, and in fact, I ended my day going into a class to hand out letters with permission slip. One student took one. There are currently two members in my club. Replacing First Story is going to be harder than I thought. But still, it’s early days. Last year, two Year 8 students – a boy and a girl – made their own version of ‘Origin Story’ and, along with my new Feminist Group, my main goal this year is to make this a success.

That goal applying to my day job. By night, I used to be able to go to events like National Poetry Day Live at the Royal Festival Hall, which is where I was this time last year. However, tonight I will be largely writing an assignment for a CELTA course I’m studying part-time. This means I’m doing two 13 hour days each week (because, you know, full time job), plus attending some Saturdays. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I rise at 6.30am and go to sleep at 11.30pm. On top of this, I have to do these assignments, thoroughly plan lessons for the course, observe others teaching, and be observed myself… By five people (I was less than happy when informed I’ll be observed twice in my day job too, but hey, I should be used to it, at least!)

Tonight I’ll also try to fit in a rehearsal for a poem I’m performing on Saturday night (details below), and if I’m lucky, I can work on the poem I started writing last night when I should have been sleeping.

If I sound like I’m being negative, I am. I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder, plus some mild symptoms of depression. I’ve had six weeks on CBT, and been offered to take part in a trial. However, I find it too stressful to go to my “local” service provider, so we’ll see what happens with that. Sometimes it just feels like another thing to tick off the to-do list. 

Poet Tim Clare suggested the book ‘Feeling Good’ by David D Burns, M.D. and it was when reading it that I realised I was guilty of pretty much all of the cognitive distortions. Here’s a list:

  1. All-or-nothing thinking: I’m not on TV, I’m a failure as a poet.
  2. Overgeneralisation: This can be really bad, it’s like when things pile up so much that one thing sets off a continuous stream of negative thinking and it’s like there’s no way out. These days are usually a write-off, and the best thing is forced relaxation and an early night.
  3. Mental Filter: I hate making mistakes, so whenever this happens, or if I say something stupid, I will thinking about it constantly for multiple days. Sometimes if I feel like I’ve been talking “too much”, I have to just not say things I think of saying because I overthink what I say so much.
  4. Disqualifying the Positive: I guess this one is similar to number 6, but my parents’ support probably best explains this.
  5. Jumping to Conclusions: a/ Mind Reading: I haven’t heard from members of my poetry collective; they must not like me anymore. b/ Fortune Teller Error: If there’s a slight indication of a problem I have to nip it at the bud. This is probably how this one manifests itself as I worry about the outcomes of things so much that I do everything I can do to prevent the disaster in my head to the extent that I don’t seem to care how others perceive me in that time, until afterwards when I feel immense paranoia about how I’m viewed.
  6. Magnification or Minimisation: Like I said, links to 4, but I will focus on not being picked for one thing, and minimise the success of other things, such as recently being emailed about an opportunity linked to a project that saw my poetry played at the Southbank Centre, where the individual described a new poem I sent as”Visceral and shattering.  Hard to hear but necessary.”
  7. Emotional Reasoning: For this one, I guess it’s mostly in terms of relationships with other people. I find it hard to keep up with my friends because of lack of time, and distance with certain people, but they’re so important to me. However, when I don’t hear from people, I assume because I feel sad about it that they’re not as bothered about seeing me.
  8. Should statements: There was something in the book that was a bit of a revelation. By expecting too much of myself, I obviously end up exhausted and unable to keep up, but in turn I also place those same expectations on others and I become “bitter and self-righteous” when they are not met. This was something I realised was really harmful to my relationships with others. Communication is the key here.
  9. Labelling and Mislabeling: I feel like I don’t do this as much, but it could be because it can be quite subtle in a way. The automatic thought of “I’m so stupid” etc. is so familiar that it’s hard to even be conscious of it. The last time I did this, I cried and felt bad on my journey home from my Gran’s, where I’d stayed with my boyfriend, as I’d left chicken and fish bones in the bin because I didn’t know where to put it outside.
  10. Personalisation: This happened on a project where everyone was so positive about it, but the person I was working with said they couldn’t wait until it was over. I took their honesty as being about me, and saw it as a failure, when really they had a lot more going on that was nothing to do with me.

I hadn’t intended this to be so long, but this seems to be what happens… I write nothing for ages and then ramble on for so long that people will inevitably get bored before the end! But if you’re still with me… I guess my point is that I have been feeling disappointed in my progress within the world of poetry, but that part of me knows that I need to enjoy the journey rather than be so focused on an essentially imaginary end-point. I’ve been working on overdrive since I started working full-time, to the point where I don’t know what a normal existence looks like. Now I’ve taken on this CELTA course, I know that I won’t be able to participate in the poetry world as much as I would like to… including my beloved Burn After Reading events (now on Mondays) and The Writing Room Presents… Jawdance (Wednesdays). Recently, I wanted to take more care of myself. My goal was to give myself the time that normal people have to unwind, to make it Sundays. But, I need my Sundays now to work as I have such little time to do so otherwise. Maybe a New Years Resolution then.

I was inspired by one of my tutors on the course, who now works freelance. This was my aim over three years ago, and I’m now making plans to launch my career properly. I’ve been performing my poetry for nine years now. I count it from my first open mic’ event, and why not? There are poets out there who have achieved more than me and haven’t even been doing it a year! Is that the negative voice talking? Maybe.

Anyway, my plans – or my hopes – for the future are to use this CELTA course to live abroad for around a year, a year and a half. I then hope to come back having saved enough money to move out of my parents’ house (that was why I’ve been in this job for so long) and buy myself some time. I’ll try to get some part time work that will allow me the flexibility to truly focus on my passion. I’m hoping that with time to devote to my artistic practice, that I will start enjoying the journey more. I’m also hoping that my travels will allow me some perspective that I simply can’t seem to get when I’m exhausted on the 7.25am train towards Waterloo. And as fellow poet Sophia Walker pointed out, that other than just thinking about what I can offer the countries I go to, they will also have much to offer me and I will grow as a writer and as a person in ways I won’t know now.

So, these will be the last few things I’m up to this year, but I reckon it’s the max I can afford to do time-wise:

-Feminism in London Evening Party

-Working on a Burn After Reading project

-An event on Superheroes and Supervillians

-Homeless Not Hopeless event

Hopefully I’ll catch some weekend events and open mic nights, and, of course, there’ll be She Grrrowls… I don’t want to end it so soon, so maybe I’ll do a January goodbye party… I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be going, but January seems like a good time for a bon voyage!

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Okay, I can’t quite end it there. Here are some nice things to look at for National Poetry Day:

  1. Selina Nwulu won the prize for Young Poet Laureate for London. Since working with her on Word’s a Stage (Apples and Snakes), we’ve shared pre-poetry food, post-show feminist discussions and dressed up in 1920s gear to see Laura Marling. She’s a fantastic poet, has featured at She Grrrowls, but is also such a lovely person. Representing the shy girls!
  2. Jodi Ann Bickley’s animated poem called ‘Brave’ on BBC Radio 1xtra’s Words First. I met her at Bestival last year (I think… the festivals blur!) and I’m so glad to hear new work from her.
  3. Some of my friends and peers on this Buzzfeed list. 
  4. I’m currently reading R.A. Villanueva, Reliquaria, and have just finished Sophia Walker’s Opposite the Tourbus.
  5. Chocolate Poetry Club put up this video of me featuring there and is celebrating its first birthday on Sunday 1st November.

Christmas Catch-Up and a Cuppa

Grab yourself a cup of tea and join me for a much needed Christmas catch-up! I’ve not written in over a month as I’ve been so busy. Now I’m writing I can’t think of much that is new. But what is new is pretty big!

My major news is that I have now found out my grade for my Creative Entrepreneurship MA – DISTINCTION!! I was feeling nervous so am relieved and happy with my result! I can now either wait until July for the congregation, or pick up my certificate in February  I’m not sure which to do as I won’t know many people there – if anyone!

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Secondly, I performed my piece at The Gallery Cafe for ‘Word’s A Stage’. I was really pleased with how it went and spoke to lots of lovely people afterwards who showered me and my fellow poets with kind compliments and conversation.

I performed the piece again at The Place, in Bedford, as a part of ‘New Write Nights’. As I had work the next day I had to dash off during the interval. The organiser was kind enough to be my taxi for the night and I got paid expenses so it was great to get out from London for something different. I also met a woman called Jan, who works for the Arts Council and I had the pleasure of talking to her on the train back.

Here is the feedback I got from the night at The Gallery Cafe:

Carmina’s piece was nicely written and touching. I enjoyed how she used the tube stops as beats.

Great! Really interesting combination of content with structure (circular) – worked really well to express emotion of a breakup. But slight overuse of pop culture references, I thought (didn’t add anything).

Great [illegible word – simile?]. It flowed lovely. Would love to hear more. I love the excellent references. Q: What is your main influences [sic]?

Beautiful & moving, really drew me in.

Great control, structured by the underground stations – would love to read it. Wonderfully consistent rime [sic] scheme.

Nice – great use of the train journey as a structure for the piece. Some beautiful lines – “not trying to make you jealous – I want you to come back.” Lovely delivery, could perhaps play more with pace. Reflecting in the Indian meal for example, this is a bright moment.

Beautiful – train lines like a web was wicked and revisiting this was great – you had my stomach in knot. Very powerful.

Really liked the Circle Line framing for this piece – something all Londoners can relate to – as well as the excruciating heartbreak too.

Carmina’s words just escaped being too tragic to bear. The train metaphors link could mesh more.

Graceful, passionate, emotive, soulful, honest, scarred.

I’m feeling the urge for a clearing as I have a few scraps of paper and books etc. under my bedside cabinet that needs sorting. I have pieces of poetry in books, on my iTouch and on the tip of my tongue. I started a novel in November but will need to save that for the future, having written no more than 5,000 words.

For now, I’m awaiting the response of the Arts Council for my funding application for my event for Poetry & Paint. The event will go ahead nevertheless, but funding would make an amazing difference. It will be quite intense organising the event for March 31st 2013 but I’m confident I can do it. I’ll also be making a book to go along with the event and act as a kind of programme, showcasing the featured artists as well as others that have produced work for the concept and a piece introducing the topic and outlining why it is important for writers to engage with other artforms.

So, with the new year approaching, I am concentrating on this event, as well as working towards gaining a publisher for my own poetry. I also want to focus on extending the piece I did for ‘Word’s A Stage’ to a full-length show, and from Spring, look at setting up more regular events. I also want to reflect on my Arts Plan to see how much progress I’m making.

As for my new years resolution; it can be summed up by two words: appreciate life.

At times I have been overwhelmed, taken too much on,
burned the candle at both ends,
felt like I was losing friends,
and before I knew it the year was gone.

To a new year, and truly appreciating life.

xxx

21.11.12 – The Word’s a Stage

Tickets for this evening are priced at £5.00. Apples and Snakes presents The Word’s a Stage When: Wednesday 21 November, 7.30pm Where: Gallery Café, 21 Old Ford Road, London E2 9PL Tickets: £5 / £4 concs Info: thegallerycafe.blogspot.co.uk Don’t you love a challenge? We’ve challenged four poets to each come up with a brand new 20-minute poem and knock it into performable shape by 21 November. A cinch? Impossible? Come along and see. The Four: Carmina Masoliver, Selina Nwulu, Anthony Hett, Errol McGlashan The Mentor: Malika Booker Malika has been honing and editing. Our writers have been writing and rewriting. And now – the exclusive unveiling, a night of newness. When these poems are veritable pillars of spoken-word theatre, you’ll be able to say ‘Ah yes, I first heard this at the Gallery Café in Bethnal Green’. 

I tried to be poetic…

Don’t forget to keep checking out BadRobot Poetry.  Also, submit to my project. Put it on your to-do list. Start a to-do list in Excel. Put it on a post-it note. Put in on a mini-white-board. A chalk-board. Write it in your diary. Better yet, do it now. SUBMIT! SUBMIT TO ME!!!

Check out my review by Koel Mukherjee for Sabotage for my event, Carmina’s Poetry Tease (read it? See – I am good! Submit! Be a part of the next event!)

On Saturday I am going to my first workshop for Word’s A Stage, a project run by Apples & Snakes (who I seem to have to thank for a majority of my poetic success thus far). November 21st – keep the date in your diary. I will also be looking for people to eat dinner/Nando’s with. Or not. Because I will be incredibly nervous.

Now, on a more serious note, I just got informed via email of Amanda Todd’s suicide, as a result of cyber bullying. I cried at what she had to go through, and the knowledge of how common this reality is for teenagers in the age of technology. Not only does it highlight the issue of cyber bullying, but also that of slut-shaming, which is a massive problem that exists in society as a whole.

I know that, at school, I was turned against by certain individuals for being lonely and confiding in a friend, for publicly writing in an online-diary when my family life was hard and I felt I didn’t know who to talk to, for wanting to be normal around boys after five years of isolation from them and not knowing how. Wanting to be liked as a person but being seen for purely the physical.

When you’re a teenager, you get called a slut by boys and others girls because you gave a guy a blow-job once (and I’m talking over the age of consent here, 16+). When you’re an adult, you know that most women do give blow-jobs.  And you also know that any decent man will return the favour.

Part of this problem is that young people need more education on the emotional side of sex.  And speaking of emotions, we need to stop pretending that men don’t have any – this just leads to repression and a false idea of masculinity. And we need to stop acting like girls who express their emotions are crazy, that there’s something wrong with them.

Another issue is that in the adult world slut-shaming is still rife. And that’s why, mainstream songs, like Christina Aguilera’s Can’t Hold us Down, are important. There are double standards and they need addressing. This is confirmed by those commenting on Amanda Todd’s case, saying she ‘deserved it’. No. Nobody deserves to feel like life is not worth living.