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Monday, 16 December 2013

5 (non-poetry) Things I've Been Watching Lately...

The non-poetry disclaimer had to be inserted, as I'm always watching YouTube clips of poets, but I can do another post on that, if anyone's interested? Meanwhile...

Al Jazeera with Jose Mujica

This interview with Uruguay's president, who's been getting a lot of international attention after making moves to legalise marijuana. I was struck by a lot of what he said. Plenty to discuss at another time!

Two Horace Ove films

One of the many pleasures of being a student is wandering through Goldsmiths library's many floors and picking up books and films you didn't know existed. Hence Pressure and Baldwin's Nigger - the latter a recording from 1969 with James Baldwin speaking to a group of students at the West Indian Centre in London. It's been great research for my novel (don't ask about that now... eek!) and a valuable lesson in how talk around race and politics has (or hasn't) developed.

Breaking Bad

Unfortunately, not available in the library as someone's had it out several weeks in a row... But I've finally been convinced to watch this - and I'm 2 episodes in already... A lesson in chemistry, if nothing else.

The Butler

Surprisingly nuanced in places. Not so in others, but it does manage to take us right through the last half-century or so in the States, and it left a big impression. Really glad I watched this (cheers, sis, for insisting I went to the cinema to see it!)

Altar Call Self Defence...?

Ok, I wasn't going to share this... The context of the video is very particular to a certain brand of churchgoer over here, so a lot of people won't get this.

If you've never been to a church service where being prayed for by the altar is a perilous activity, then you have no idea, skip this one... but if you do, this clip has been giving me jokes for months.


 Praise away! :)

Sunday, 15 December 2013

UPCOMING... Chill Pill Xmas Special - This THURSDAY!

Mid-December, for me, involves trying to find creative excuses not to go for celebratory drinks, lunches or parties to mark the season. I don't "do" festive cheer... but this is a definite exception.

No excuses not to come to this - Chill Pill is going to be fun on Thursday... and I might even don a little Santa hat  ...or perhaps not. (Let's curb our excitement just a little.)

Deptford, here we come! More info here, or check out this cool trailer below: 

Friday, 13 December 2013

Pulling Out All the Stops...

One of the projects I'm doing at the moment involves writing poetry inspired by the massive (approx.) 8,000 pipe organ at the Royal Festival Hall. I'm enjoying the opportunity to "geek out"; various organ-knowledge gathering sessions over the weekend/evenings, watching YouTube videos of mad organists, trying to makes sense of diagrams which show different chambers, stops and pedals. I never knew my life would come to this. 

Pull Out All the Stops is a festival taking place at the Southbank Centre in Spring to celebrate their organ and I'm looking forward to it. It's a monstrous beast with an interesting - and even controversial - history, and it's great to be able to explore this. Completely out of my usual writing zone and yet, I'm already starting to find odd connections with other things I care about.  

Note Gathering

So far, I have pages and pages of notes I'm working through - and already have about 6 first-draft poems and sketches. It's great to approach my writing this way, large volumes of writing and paring it down chunk by chunk...

It's difficult not to create double-entendres. The only way around it is to go mysterious and dark. Apologies to Robert Frost for jumping on one of his poems, in one of my notes:

"The world will not end in fire/ ice or trumpets sounding twice/ but in the organ / God of metal, wood, breath, bones / blood"

Will keep you posted on this...

Saturday, 7 December 2013

A quick one...

Last night's Tongue Fu vs Anti-Slam was amazing!

Tongue Fu, as expected, was a great night with very talented, responsive musicians. I laughed very hard and very loudly during the Anti-Slam (where the worst poet wins).

I channelled my alter ego, The Consciousness, and he didn't even get to do his poem after a long pre-amble; the audience "just wasn't ready" for him, and needed to "elevate themselves" and "get educated". And of course, he added, we need another Mandela or woMandela to lead us out of the gloomy hole the world is currently in.

I was still coming out of character when I read Musa Okwanga's strong piece on Mandela and I disagreed strongly with him. "You will fail"? I read. Even before his passing, we'd already succeeded into making him a peace-loving, hippie figure, that everyone can rally round; having elaborate concerts for his birthday, erecting statues... and revising history.

The year I was born, not even that far back in the 80s, he was a controversial figure for Western establishments. He was in jail and there was a reason for it. Whilst he was non-violent, he influenced not just public debate but also protest and riots. A lot of people wanted to keep the status quo and he was rocking the boat. It sounds silly, of course, because now we like to say how equal everyone should be (because our systems of oppression are usually much more subtle than having visible "no blacks" signs up) and he's an easy figure to celebrate. And while the BBC now cuts to speeches from David Cameron and a million other people on how wonderful he was, they need to remember that people from our ruling party believed he was a terrorist. And, of course, people can change their minds, but to then claim Mandela for their own political purposes... as if they and his contemporaries always been best of buddies, that is dangerous. Revisionism at its worst. Just like the way our current government used the Civil Rights movement recently to justify their hideous new reforms.

Anyway, other people have written about this already. And it's great to see that not everyone has forgotten. Because when we forget history, we repeat it.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Brief Poetry UPDATE.... 5 things

1 - Reading List

This week, I've been doing most of my reading on the daily commute to work and other places, but it's slow progress (mainly because I keep falling asleep on the bus).

Right now I'm getting through a collection of Dub poetry and the Poetry Repair Manual. I've also just been lent The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak, so that's next on the list.

2 - Don't Stop this Game!

The last two gigs I've been to were pretty lively competitive events. Friday's Rap vs Poetry saw us pit words against alongside each other from the comfort of a boxing ring in the East End and I felt proper hardcore!

Last night, I checked in on 'I'm Sorry I Haven't Haiku', a competitive haiku game show evening, right on my doorstep in Camden. I never knew before that you could fit turtles, euthanasia and knitwear into 17 syllables, but the people on the two rival panels sure did try! And, feature guest James McKay delivered a few sharp haiku triptychs to round off the night. Crazy times.

3 - Next up

Speaking of crazy, and playfulness and game shows, I'm really excited about Tongue Fu vs Anti-Slam. As I'm writing, I'm preparing to resurrect my alter ego The Consciousness (that's Conscious Yes! to you, my Consciousation). It takes a lot of effort to deliver your worst... I'm also looking forward to see what the Tongue Fu band will bring to this night, which takes on the slam and parodies it in cruel ways, with clich├ęs, stereotypes and hideously bad poetry stepping up onto the stage.

I also have Chill Pill's Xmas special on December 19 at the Albany, which is going to be awesome. Other projects in the pipeline too... More on these later! 

 4 - Hainault via Newbury Park...

Oh yeah, and I just noticed Amazon is now selling my debut mini-collection of poems. They make good Christmas presents, apparently (and there's even a Christmas poem included). I'm planning on publishing a full collection next year and will keep you posted.

5 - A tweet that made me smile

I've posted about my poem "Tell Me (what you believe)" a few times, including here back in 2011, because when I wrote it, I couldn't give a definitive answer to the question. But there are 12 year olds out there that can and it makes me smile to know that.

Short poem from a year 8 student in response to 'Tell Me' by

Friday, 22 November 2013

UPCOMING... er, as in right now!

Another day, another battle... Making my way to Lost Lectures: The Big Fight - Live. in East London.

The talks should be streamed online so stay posted. I'll be part of a Rap vs. Poetry segment, with killer poets Rikki Livermore, Michelle Madsen battling against MCs Benny Diction and Solo Cypher. Bring it on!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Lily Allen kicks up a storm!

Lily Allen's Video Hard Out Here - if you haven't seen it here's a YouTube clip

Or, better, listen to this emotional response from skilled poet Deanna Rodger

Lily's caused an outcry. And a flurry of very well-written, well-argued critiques. Like this one here. And this one here. And this one here. And she has defended herself. And then there are people who support her for making a feminist stand. Google them, if you must.

But, I was asked to share my opinion on the matter. Then I ignored the question for a few days, then I thought, what the heck - if I'm going to be made to think about her and her video, I better take my time on it. And so, instead of the simple answer I was going to give, I've ended up with these thoughts....

Some context #1 - Personal

I don't have a TV at home, so I have to make a decisive effort to watch the world as it happens on the Internet. My old-school habit of turning on the telly for random noise is now gone.

Since last year in particular, I've felt a little out of touch, but I like the feeling. I have no clue about X Factor and who's winning, losing or whining their way into the affections of the British public; I remain especially indifferent to Great British Bake Offs and anything else that involves pastry.

However, I have taken perverse pleasure watching Gogglebox, where friends and families sit in their living rooms, watch TV and comment about it while they're watching. (I'm hoping someone will film me watching the show and then make a TV programme out of it; in return, I'll film whoever films me and we can keep going ad infinitum.)

#2 - Global/ Getting some real perspective

I've stopped picking up free newspapers. If I want to be informed, I log on and watch the news online or I read it from my phone. I generally know what's going on, and I select what I want to know more about.

The aftermath of the storm in the Philippines is difficult to get my head around. When a disaster creates deaths in single or double figures, it hits me more, as I can easily picture ten or a hundred people; when deaths gets to the thousands, however, it's difficult to conceptualise, even if you have a close connection with the place (I don't). I'm not unique feeling this way; the phenomenon has been referred to as donor or disaster fatigue.

Despite this, I know millions of people need immediate help - people with far bigger problems than my own - or Lily Allen's (the link above has some information on how to donate). It's hard out here, indeed!

Given all of the above, forgive me if I fail to care too much about what Lily Allen does in her videos...

(I would leave it there, but...)


Everything we do is a conversation with the past.

(We talk about the film we watched last night with friends/colleagues/ourselves. We elaborate. We forget details. We respond to it based on how much better or worse it was than the last thing, or the original version. Or the prequel. And, as we get older, we compare it to films we idealised as kids.)

#4 - Trends

'Tis the season of music video controversy. In case you didn't realise there was a season, we've had a few twerks, then a few blurred lines, and a wrecking ball. All of these have hit news headlines lately and created gossip, debate, censorship and fury.

But there have been debates about music videos going back decades. And there have been arguments about the objectification of women whose buttocks feature in these videos. And, of course, arguments about the consequences of women seeking to follow the new ideal of hip-hop video-friendly buttocks, including this exceptionally sad story about a woman from Hackney, reported to have been "an aspiring hip-hop star", which just sprung to mind.

Given the above, I won't be saying anything new... And I doubt many other people can, either. So why bother weighing in on something that is already yesterday's news (until some other singer sticks a gyrating butt into the continuing dialogue between sexism and race)?

(And, having said that...)

#5 - Youth

"Sir! Sir! Have you seen this?"

A girl points me to the friend sitting next to her, in my class (where she should be writing).

"Look - I can twerk my finger!" the girl says.

"She's been doing it all day, sir!"

A miracle... Balanced on one thumb, her index performs an impressive - if not disturbing - wobble.

I rewind to when I was an eleven year old. I probably would have parodied some of the arse-shaking antics of the music videos I saw in a similar, relatively innocent way. But I wouldn't have shared this with an adult, which says a lot about protocol and boundaries, but it also says something about our common language.

It was assumed I knew what the term "twerking" meant - and, given its addition to the Oxford Dictionary, and given that I haven't had my head completely buried in some drawer for the past few months, it was a fair assumption - and an acceptable term to use. When I was eleven, I don't recall there being a similar term in popular use across generations, even if people have been shaking their booty for aeons. Household names like Miley Cyrus have given universal access to this aspect of "black" culture (the inverted commas are a place mark for debate on the grey area of what "black culture" is. And artists from Elvis to Eminem have been stirring that debate for ages... That's almost another argument altogether.)

#6 - Appropriation

But I'll touch on that argument briefly. Well, just enough to say that we still have an issue with how marginalised groups use language - and whether those whose balance of power is greater should be able to employ the same language. The subject is discussed extensively in this recent radio programme with regard to the word "nigger" - a word which features heavily in the show, despite being censored in the title: "Nobody's N-Word." More humorously, this article discusses the same issue with derogatory terms for gay people.

How the above points relate to the video depends on how we answer the questions below:

i) How far can you criticise attitudes/behaviour you disagree with through mimickry/satire/parody, without becoming a part of that behaviour yourself?

ii) How much is a white, privileged (in multiple senses of the word) woman entitled to appropriate and parody the (visual) language of what is mostly seen as a "black" form of art?

iii) How more/less acceptable would this be if races were inverted in the video (i.e. if Lily Allen were black, and the dancers were white)?  

In a conclusion, of sorts

The last question has been used to dismiss claims of racism in the video. ("People will always find something to be offended by. Even if they were all white 'they' would be offended") This is the attitude I find more distasteful than any one-off music video. I mean, I get it - Lily's just trying to make a record, some money and a name for herself. And she may well be in a vacuum where the implications of her choice of choreography - given the subject matter - aren't fully thought-out (although I'm disinclined to give her the benefit of the doubt after she tweeted the penis in blackface.) But for others to invalidate a sizeable group's misgivings by saying they aren't genuine is another matter.

When people are offended, I tend to find out why; I may not agree, but I would never go down the road of belittling the validity of their feelings. Go back to #3 - there might be some historical context which can shed light on why some people take umbrage. Think about Deanna's video, for example - she provides an account of feeling judged and degraded from a young age; for her, 'Hard Out Here' is a personal insult, a belittling of her experience.    

I saw a Facebook post a while ago, and then haven't been able to find it again. However, it read something like this:
Being black means you get to be offended by things white people don't. And to then be told that you need to lighten up (pardon the pun).
Of course, in a post-feminist, post-racist world, if you can't see your own privilege, it simply doesn't exist! I remember being shocked when I remarked how safe (central) London streets are at night and a woman I was speaking to reeled off a list of recent incidents where she'd been intimidated and even followed home by men. She doesn't feel as safe as I do; and I imagine many others wouldn't, either. How I see things isn't how another person will. That doesn't negate their experience.

All that said, I want to take the argument away from the singer who inspired the backlash. She's just another cog in the wheel, as Deanna would say. The real issue is that some black women - and men -  feel under-represented, marginalised, objectified. The real issue is that, when this is brought to public attention, eyes roll, people sigh and assume the "race card" position.

The real issue is that we can no longer call out "racism" and "sexism" in a straightforward way. I've decided that I don't know any racists. Or misogynists. Or homophobes. Or even bullies. These words have become flames. People who unwittingly display oppressive behaviour fail to recognise themselves in these terms because we associate them with cross-burning Neanderthals, fascists, angry skinheads with H-A-T-E H-A-T-E tattoos on each knuckle. We know that people who are racist are BAD. Just like if you ask any school child if bullying is wrong (it's National Anti-bullying week by the way!) they will also tell you how awful it is. And still bitch about someone in their class. Or write less-than-friendly messages on Facebook, or Twitter (watch this if you're able to understand Spanish - the ultimate teacher revenge!) Or simply forward an inflammatory email, or hack someone's account. When we call out racism for what it is, it gets people's backs up. So we need to be a little cleverer.

Since I've been an adult, I've never been intentionally racist, or sexist. But oppression doesn't work like that. Oppression comes in many forms, and the most insidious one is indirect complicity, a blindness which enables us to accept the status quo.

That all said, when all the fizz dies down, another singer will come along next month and pour more champagne over a girl's buttocks and the debate will continue, I'm sure. Meanwhile, as much as I don't like the video, it's just one video of many others, a small pixel in the screen that shows the picture of our world. I'm glad people are questioning how we represent race and gender issues, and I'd like to see us challenge more behaviour that makes society unjust. Because there are plenty of other, glaringly obvious examples.

Monday, 18 November 2013

New Theatre/Poetry Project... a work in progress

I can't say much about this project now (mostly because the main details are still to be worked out) but I'm excited to be working with film/theatre director Jason Moore on a poetry event, taking place at the beginning of the new year.

The objective is to create an interactive space where poets are in conversation with each other, responding to one theme or idea. We'll be meeting with a few poets on Wednesday eve at the Southbank Centre. If you think you might be interested, get in touch and come along!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Postcard from home... Ventriloquism

a bit bleak but I want to work on this one... here's  a 1st draft/ free-write from my phone

On the way to the hospital       a shortcut 
through the long shadows of death
fearing no evil but the sharp        November wind 
which snips through the weak lining
of my puffa coat

and in the distance   a man is entertaining a loud     phone conversation
from the back of a gravestone      with faded lettering
it's weak against the light of the greying sky 
and the sun so low you could seize it with both hands
    like a moment

and there's a metaphor for God in there      somewhere 
precisely because I can't see him
and it seems     in that moment     that he's speaking
for those who've passed on
perhaps       the gravest kind of ventriloquism
because before I approached it was dead    quiet
nothing but squelching leaves to punctuate
   my thoughts.


I hear the dusk used to gather men up here 
for brisk encounters
crouching under bushes      by the crypts
and I won't pass comment
on the partnership between sex & death

not exactly civil 
when the two of them bicker     incessantly
at all the best black tie dinners
you never were invited to 
going at each other's throats with the posh silverware 
(you have to work from the outside in, he says   
amuse-bouche   main    pudding    cheese)
snide ahems passed like mustard      sparing but enough to clear a cold

call it a trick of dark    but the shadows are pressing up against each other     hardening    

and only two weeks ago
I was thinking my life from the far prong    of a distant fork

when you told me it's time to  consider a future 
    with me painted in the frame 

which, if you approach it     with the right light
the gilt edges   the sticker from Habitat     the gurning child in the background 
making speech marks behind someone's head  

you could have hung it just about anywhere

but now my perspectives have turned sideways
and the portrait I had of myself
is rubbing out slowly       like words on a gravestone 

and maybe I'm speaking for you now
but I can't snap back at this particular cold       and the warm
of a smile only lasts me this long     shorter each time
like the daylight

and because a lecturer once told me that dictionaries are graveyards
for words
because writing is forgetting to live        because a tongue births
new meanings with each breath     with each twist
and sounds shift mouth to mouth

because of this I am writing my words     down
to bury my silence.


a youth I do not recognise      pauses   then lifts
his knuckles    a gesture to enter the ward  

his visit is brief
a revolving door;

the trickster
always hides behind the entranceways

drops another version of myself off here  
even though this was never written in the script.


Walking back
taking leaves up with my foot - fallen feathers

from angels, watching over the headstones
that gather dust        beneath their roots

they stretch their thin wings out
to a darkening sky     in silent supplication

while a man-sized shape shifts on a bench
in the distance.


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Upcoming Gig... Jazz Verse Jukebox in Covent Garden

Thursday, 7.30pm, and I'm back at Jazz Verse Jukebox, one of my favourite poetry nights in London, where a versatile live band, virtuoso singers and poets merge with good vibes. This time, it's not at the usual Ronnie Scott's venue but the prestigious Hospital Club in Covent Garden.

I'll hopefully do one or two new poems I'm getting ready for the Autumn/Winter season :) And some favourites of mine, too.

Looking forward to hearing more from Anthony Anaxogouru and Francesca Beard, both poets with powerful words that I admire - usually from afar - and it'll also be the first time I hear Lanre... so fun times!

Come on down!

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Back again/ November/ Reading List

Once again, I've had an unplanned break from posting on here that started with the flu and a dodgy internet connection at home - both have been fixed - and continued with a tricky few weeks that went by quickly... or went quickly by (apparently, some people still 'object strongly' to split infinitives... really?) In any case, I'm still here, as ever, and back online.

Good Reading 

I've been consuming books at a speedy rate, lately. 

Poetry-wise, I've been particularly enjoying Emily Berry's Dear Boy and John Agard's new collection Travel Light, Travel Dark. They could hardly be more different from each other. The former is extremely playful and irreverent in places; the latter cross-references and adds layers over layers, the poems hanging together in a dialogue with history. I saw both poets perform at the Poetry Library's 60th Anniversary party last week, where I was also blown away by Warsan Shire and Kei Miller. I'm falling in love with poetry again and seeing different possibilities in the way language and meaning can be manipulated. This is all good. Despite constant self-doubt, I think I'm in the right job :)

I've been devouring this book too:

I wrote a poem, 'Asylum Cocktails', for the above anthology of human rights poems, put together by the Human Rights Consortium, the Institute of English Studies and Keats House Poets. It's filled with work from poets from around the world, both renowned and previously unpublished, some imprisoned, or refugees, or translated from other languages, either responding to specific events around the world or their own experience.

And, a few weeks ago, I was given this:

   (The words "Isn't it Byronic, don't you think...?" keep repeating in my head, but there are some real gems here.)

Fiction-wise, I've been reading a lot of Young Adult books, from Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls, which had me staring at the wall for a long time afterwards, to Nick Laird's In Darkness, which brings together post-earthquake Haiti with its heroic past, and Sally Gardner's Maggot Moon, a couple of weeks ago, which surprised me. Been a little slower with the adult fiction, but was tickled to read Bernadine Evaristo's Mr Loverman - mostly on the bus route to work which goes past the main character's street - and I'm still leafing through The Book of Disquiet and The Great Gatsby, although, in the case of the latter, it's difficult for me to invest in a book where I don't particularly care for any of the characters.

I feel I'm missing some out... But it's good to write down where I'm at with my reading... more than I thought! I'll probably do this again in a couple of weeks.

NTS Radio

I was on RE:Versed show again on Monday, live from Dalston, Hackney. Apologies for sound levels (we had some technical mishaps going on). It starts off bitter, but gets better. Can also follow on Twitter etc.

Met a very interesting, cool-sounding Bunty and shared some banter with her and Sam Berkson. Also my new (rough) poem on freedom of information and a plug for the Spoken Word Educator programme.

Click the link to listen to the show again:

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Postcard from Home... This is a photo

This is a poem.
One metaphor short of a nobel prize
A brick wall to hit your unsophisticated head against
An arrow darting across a souvenir t-shirt: I'm with stupid
One brow so high it tickles the feet of angels, who snort mirthfully through clenched noses
Dense has a double-meaning these days, and you're one of them
And this poem's the other; unpack it like a Friday night punch
At your own expense, or your own leisure or your own
Risk falling through the unspoken

Monday, 7 October 2013

Travel Better London... It's a wrap!

Last week was whacky and wonderful. I realised my dream of performing an altered version of my (now nearly eight years old) Circle Line poem at an actual Circle Line station. I know - some other people dream of climbing mountains, or playing football in a muddy field for lots of money, or actually changing the world, but there you have it, it was indeed an ambition of mine.

The week wasn't quite what I expected. I've done street performances from Edinburgh to Canterbury and I'm getting more confident in dealing with an unsuspecting public, but I still found this more terrifying than I'd imagined. Rush hour crowds in single-minded got-to-get-home mode are a force to be reckoned with. But some people did stop. And some people said hearing poetry on the tube brightened up their days. And some people shared their poems, their life stories and (lingering) hugs with me. And that was also appreciated.

Getting hold of the service update information board Tuesday onwards really helped. I composed a few quick short verses/ditties on the spot and found I'm really out of practice. But it's a good way to engage with the public in a non-threatening way. When I noticed some students from Imperial Uni, for instance, writing a quick (pun-heavy) few lines about the freshers' boat party started some good conversations. And it got me some requests too...

Emma Jones
Highlights of the week included teaming up with Emma Jones Tues/Weds and Amy McAllister on Thursday. And learning that tube staff really do put up with a lot of bad behaviour, including one passenger who decided to urinate in front of the barriers at Angel one evening, 'to prove a point'. Yeah, nice point!

There was the didactic element of encouraging good behaviour on the tube and, in some ways, I felt like more of a schoolteacher there than I do at school! Fitting your creativity around that limited brief can be challenging. But there was plenty of opportunity for fun and frolics and subversion, and I got to write and perform other non-travel-related poetry.

On Friday, Dan Simpson organised a slam competition at Liverpool Street station during lunchtime. Having passed through there countless times, I'd never in my wildest dreams have envisioned it as the place for a slam competition. But, there you go! This city has a way of opening itself up to unusual opportunities. 
Amy McAllister, poet-in-residence at Angel 

Amy McA. won hands down

 I'll add some of my other fave highlights later - most of which have been posted onto the official website. In the meanwhile, an extract from my last Service Update poem...

Sunday, 6 October 2013


Wednesday, and I'll be joining Danni Antagonist for Incite Poetry evening at the Phoenix Artist Club, a pretty cool venue hidden just under the Phoenix Theatre, near Leicester Square. I'll be performing some old favourites and some new - as of yet unheard - stuff. I'll keep you posted on what I'm writing now later on in the week.

It'll start 7pm prompt as live jazz begins at 9pm. The night's warm and welcoming, and there's an open mic too. Hosted by Camden's LGBT Forum and Trudy Howson, whose live personality will brighten up the mid-week blues! It'd be great to see some friendly faces ;) so come along.


Monday, 30 September 2013

Travel Better London... Day 1

All this week, thirteen poets (including me) will be popping up across the tube network, delivering poetry and smiles to unsuspecting commuters. Some of us are Poets-in-Residence at selected stations, with a not-so-fleeting posting, writing poems and interacting with passengers, and spreading some of that poetry joy. The rest of us will be at stations for usually no more than thirty minutes at a time.

I'll link to some of the other poets as the week goes on, but in the meanwhile, Travel Better London's Tumblr can be found here, and there will be tweets and competitions happening all over the shop over the next few days, so stay posted!

DAY 1 - Got the t-shirt

I then headed off to three stations, including Paddington, where I performed a couple of poems and scribbled notes... One of the notes to develop:

6pm: Restless heels clack out 
towards the mouth of the Great Bear
London burps its workers Westwards 

Friday, 27 September 2013

Upcoming gig: Tonight!! Archway with Words


Tonight at 8pm, in the Archway Tavern, I'll be at the Hammer & Tongue poetry slam as part of the Archway with Words Festival. Hosted by Sam Berkson and with featured poet Polarbear, it's going to be a wicked start to the weekend. More updates to come.

Postcard from Home...

Our lady of Camden/ skirting walls/ peeling round corners/ a tag outside a bar/ say her name three times and she will claim the night back for you/ canal water/ a lock and a chain pub/ a diaspora of glass crunching 
your feet/ bolt cutters have broken bike chain/ like the first morning/ it's gone/ fist connects/ phone disconnected/ disco music from the retro place/ I love the 90s/ still haunted by Empty/ and Come on den, yeah!/ too shook up to step up/ too proud to step down/ sent message for back up/ 

in retrospect, could have bolted/ but back at bus stop/ sticker scratched halfway off/ a number/ 27 or 
the bridge/ another mattress/ in spring/ just one small rest - blanket/ would be a good name for my/ don't call me your/ missed call/ three times/ hold your key behind your back/ turn the lock/ do not let them in. 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Upcoming gig: Stand Up & Slam! tonight!!

The time has come to Stand Up and Slam! At 7.45, I'll be taking to the Comedy Cafe Theatre in Shoreditch as part of a team of poets, led by Dan Simpson. We'll be destroying the opposing team of stand up comedians in a battle of words and power. Who wins - jokes or poems? The audiences decides! It's gonna be a laugh going to be a very deep and moving triumph of poetic wordplay and emotion over the frivolous pursuit of cheap laughs :P

Monday, 16 September 2013

Canterbury, Wise Word Fest and Emotional Cellulite

I spent yesterday with five awesome poets in Canterbury for the Wise Words Festival doing pop-up poetry performances. The weather was a bit... problematic, and in between showers, we ended up in cafes reading to receptive (and, mostly, dry) audiences at their tables.

High on camaraderie and caffeine, somewhere in our conversations, Grazia magazine's article on 'emotional cellulite' came up (as discussed on this blog) and it sounded too much like a joke for me not to write about it. I'm sure either Vanessa Kisuule or Emma Jones will write proper poems on this. In the meanwhile, I set myself the challenge of drafting my own response to this nonsense while walking down the old streets of Canterbury, and read it out on the spot. I may come back to this and redraft it, but it was a lot of fun doing a quick free write and throwing it out onto the streets immediately.


Do you suffer from emotional cellulite?
Are your chakras lopsided or incorrectly aligned?
Is you spirituality sagging?
Is your third eye wrinkled?
Are you baggy around your relationship line?

Do you need to grab a handle on love?
And are your love handles forming
a barrier to your creative success?
Do you feel excessively hopeless?

When did you last detox from your anxiety?
Are you dieting on a widening variety
of self-help guides, celebrity-focused gossip
columns and gloss over your shoulder magazines?

Do you feel bloated?

Do you feel wanted?
Do you feel haunted?
Are you exercising your demons regularly?
Or are you dragging your ambitions
through the treadmill of bottom-shelf mediocrity?

Are you bored?
Are you broke?
Are you psychocynically bankrupt?
Are your hollow?
Or is your mind wallowing
fat with greedy thoughts
that only liposuctive remedies can erase?

Are there red circles on your self-image
that need to be diminished?
Are you a half-finished product
of your own disappointment?

Are you lost?
Are you winning?
Are you thinning out?

Are your prospects slim enough
to slip into superficial tedium?
And now you can fit into that medium-sized red dress
have you been left with the scars
of emotional cellulite?

Are you sufficiently stretching
your chakras?
Are they inverted or incorrectly aligned...?

Friday, 13 September 2013

My week so far in images...


A great way to spend the afternoon - listening to poets from all over this "small island" who have great things to say, in surprisingly different ways. After my great joy at being shortlisted in the first place, I was disappointed not to have gained first place when the winner was announced on Wednesday, but I'm excited that there are so many new voices out there, and it's given me a challenge to write more and write better.


Was a fabulous night!


Spent my non-teaching time at my new school's library looking through their (pretty impressive) collection of poetry and I discovered this, a poetic, illustrated biography of the Cuban poet Juan Francisco Manzano:


Went to Polari and heard Bernadine Evaristo read extracts from this (just got a copy):


At the end of a second week of teaching, I came home and read. My new love of graphic novels and a wonderful librarian led me to this:


Caught up on the news and finished watching the BBC documentary about teenage exorcists... Funny how the same footage can be used to create two very different versions (see below). I'll suspend my opinions till next time.

This afternoon, my aim was to write, but admin - and exhaustion - got in the way... Most of that now out of the way, I can spend tomorrow catching up!

Until next time!