How's that thesis coming along, Keith?
My priority for the next few weeks will be finalising my thesis corrections, though it's difficult to find the energy to come back to it after five years (five years!!!) and now a lifetime of change taking place in the space of two months. Some of my research feels particularly relevant, but in want of several appendices to take into account what's happening around us. Completing a study on British-Caribbean religious and cultural identity in London at a time when no one is, legally, attending church, and when race is at the forefront of the national conversation is difficult. The novel, well, I'm looking forward to the 'next steps' phase, when what becomes of it is no longer in my hands.
Meanwhile, stuff has been continuing, as stuff is wont to continue. I'll reshare below stuff that I've shared elsewhere in the last week or so...
1) Black Lives Matter
None Of This is New! - video in which I sum up my thoughts...
And this, by Vanessa Kisuule, which is fyah:
2) A Week in the Life
I was asked by Birkbeck to contribute to their cultural calendar for Arts Week, which went on their website a few days ago (a week ago, maybe? I'm losing track!). The full programme is here, alongside other weeks in the life.
The slightly longer version is below:
For the purposes of this narrative, ‘week’ signifies an arbitrary construct, divisible into seven-ish distinct time units, with increasing elasticity (distinguishing between days as an academic and freelancer with an unpredictable routine was tricky enough pre-pandemic!) This particular ‘week’ has been punctuated by redundant calendar notifications – see Caribbean trip below – and a couple of arrivals, reorienting me somewhat.
In her latest travel podcast series, Colombian historian Diana Uribe states (loosely translated): ‘While movement may be physically restricted, we still have our imaginations to explore the world.’ This sentiment is comforting, even though I was supposed to have left for Jamaica this week, then Cuba, for a writing research project. I’ve explored Mali, Ireland and Japan through the ears, enjoying Uribe’s international perspective (the nuances of Ireland/Northern Ireland/UK etc. are lost on many mainland Brit folk – Turtleneck Guy springs to mind here [17:35] – let alone for those further afield breaking it down for a mostly Latin American audience).
I’ve also redeemed my Imagination Airways ticket via Google Maps, traversing random avenues in cities I may or may not visit someday.
Writing prompt using Street View as stimulus: Drop the little yellow man onto the grid and watch the neighbourhood come into focus. All the poorly-pixelated people crossing roads. The couple holding hands – are they still together? Who lives behind that door? It’s great to revel in these open possibilities. To walk a mile.
It’s also brought to life news events, as I’ve ‘walked’ through Minneapolis streets, then crossed continents, contemplating all of the places where my presence might be interpreted with suspicion if I just wandered aimlessly (not to count all the places where I have already been).
When wishing to get inside the buildings, virtual museum tours are plentiful. I’ve enjoyed revisiting Barcelona’s Casa Battló – and its impressive 360˚ experience – this time without having to navigate other tourists taking pictures on their phone. Museum Bums is another lighter-hearted way to interrogate sculpture and paintings.
The final Polari First Book Prize entries thudded onto my doorstep last weekend – I’m one of this year’s judges – and I’ve relished the prospect of escapism, plus I’d already read / hoped to read many of the forty submissions. Now the deadline looms, simultaneously shifting from poetry to fiction via graphic memoir has proved intense, so I’ve emptied my calendar to make room. I’m particularly mindful of how these first-time authors are facing an increasingly-uncertain climate, and so I’ve read each sentence with their hopes in mind, taking copious notes. I think of my own debut novel, and how I must also cast it out into a future beyond my control – if it ever sees the light of day. My feelings are not one of despair but of determination.
|Body of work?|
Despite feeling I’ve missed out on so much, I’ve caught the aftermath of some cultural moments: live DJ battles; film screenings; Zoom poetry festivals; but most has been lost to the world of social media ephemera. Art abounds and we cannot contain it.
This week’s other arrival was The Book of Queer Prophets, twenty-four new essays on sexuality and religion (I’m one of the essayists, as is Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Jeanette Winterson and more…) I’ve just seen a moving live online chat with Ruth Hunt and Dustin Lance Black, also a contributor.
Other social media conversation highlights include Raymond Antrobus and Malika Booker discussing poems last night on Instagram Live. I also, finally, caught up on the Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott back catalogue battle, now up on YouTube(even Michelle Obama was watching it at the time!) It’s a Neo-soul nostalgia fest.
On to film, and it’s difficult to explain the experimental Chilean Ema. It’s infuriating in some places, boundary-pushing in others, but the payoff is worth it.
Tying some of these threads (music, virtual travel, Colombia, Spanish-language content…), Lido Pimienta soundtracked my morning. Palenques and maroon towns are another topic for another day, warranting much more detail than I can afford here.
Finally, I’ve made good on my Jamaican trip by following Rebel Women Lit, a Caribbean feminist book club. To feel part of a community across time zones feels precious, urgent right now. Though my movements are necessarily restricted, I have an unlimited worldscape.
To tie together all the themes of this post, I'll leave the last words to the Peruvian theatre legend and activist Victoria Santa Cruz.