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Wednesday, 30 April 2014


I'll be performing alongside Amber Tamblyn tomorrow. It's going to be a brill night of spoken word poetry from the high-energy Bang crew. Check out full details here. Or just look at the flyer below. Or just come along. Whatever.


Thursday, 24 April 2014

Monday, 21 April 2014

Happy Easter... and Back to School!

As promised, with updates!

Yep, another brief period of quiet. I couldn't keep up with 30/30 as my data roaming tariff and relaxation on holiday didn't extend to more than a half-hearted attempt at following the prompts. I did write one long poem and made several notes though - will work on them over the coming week.

As a consolation, I took photos of Rome - a very appropriate place to be on an Easter break :)

Nothing else going on in April for me, as promised. Looking forward to Bang Said the Gun on the 1st, Queer'Say on the 8th and Stand Up Tragedy: Tragic History on the 16th May.

Details for both - and photos - tomorrow!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Upcoming... In Protest, tonight in Brighton!

Refugee Radio In Protest Poster

I'll be reading my poem from the In Protest! anthology, 'Asylum Cocktails', and other human rights-themed work... Come along if you can make it down to the coast for the eve!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

5 things I've been watching lately (part 2)

3. April Fools' Prank

Hehe, this made me laugh. I don't think it'd go down well at the school where I teach, though...

The Guardian's April Fools' story on Scotland this year, whilst a little unlikely, was timely. As the Scottish Independence debate is getting into its rhythm, I expect a lot more outlandish statements from both sides that will make a switch to the right seem credible. Unfortunately, I didn't get to plan an April Fools' prank of my own, but was great to see some Twitter announcements from friends that made me go, SAY WHAT? out loud.

4. 1960 What?

*Bad pun alert* The Motor City might be burning, but Gregory Porter's voice is smoking :) I've packed my headphones away and it's great listening to music at home for a change (although that's not what the neighbours said!)

As for vocal acrobatics, I've been hypnotised watching this video for Iva Bittova's expressions alone.

5. Everyday Sexism

If this seems ridiculous, it only goes to show how ingrained our perceptions of normality are. Back to the humour thing - while a woman honking at men and inviting them home makes her look slightly disturbed, if anything, and while it raises a few nervous laughs, and while the video is funny, the seriousness isn't lost.

Buzzfeed's attempt at role reversal (below) doesn't work as well for me, but it does show how we've become so used to the sexualised images of women in a variety of contexts to an unhealthy degree. I've recently had to challenge a few comments - and whilst no physical violence was involved in that case, it's good to see that more men are speaking up, as Musa Okwanga discusses here.

Ok, I need to do some reading now and I might actually get to write over Easter :)

P.S. I'll be posting some more 30/30 poems soon...

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

5 things I've been watching lately (part one)...

1. Dear Mr. Gove (and other education protest videos)

I've been in my own head lately, running around with work and poetry gigs - so this video escaped my attention until a couple of days ago, despite having already had more than 150,000 views on YouTube. I can't imagine what it's like to be so unpopular, and almost universally hated as Michael Gove (Education Secretary), and to still carry on making these very unpopular decisions that will mess up lives for a whole generation.

I'm sure there'll be many more poems to come that are critical of the education system, partly because poetry and education are linked careers (although, funnily enough, I don't seem to know any poets that teach).

I recently heard Rik Livermore perform this one:

Former Children's Laureate, poet, writer and teacher/lecturer Michael Rosen spoke his own Dear Mr Gove lecture back in 2012 . Or try a briefer, sillier, Mr. Men version of how he's messing things up. Or a version with dramatic music added for effect.

2. Cultural conflict - rape poems

So it's half-term and I'm catching up with things. I was watching another poetry video on YouTube and this came up as a suggested video.

I may have discussed this before on this blog - I certainly have with poets who have performed both sides of the Atlantic - but there sometimes seems to be an interesting cultural conflict between UK and the US and nothing typifies this more than the concept of the 'rape poem'.

Back in 2010, during the World Cup in Paris, a Canadian poet asked me if the North American 'rape poem' phenomenon existed back in the UK. I'd never heard of a rape poem... But, sure enough, two years later, the first time I stepped into a poetry slam in the US, I heard a really powerful poem about rape. And, later that night, another one. And the following night, at the famous Nuyorican Poets' Cafe, I heard another one. Two days and three poets recounting their traumatic experiences. The next year when I went to D.C.... you can imagine.

Several ideas spring to mind:

1 - perhaps there are loads of people out there in Britain who don't feel comfortable sharing these experiences through poetry.

2 - perhaps the reason they don't feel comfortable is because even the most scathing political/social commentaries are sprinkled with some humour (see the videos from point one) and it's difficult to make rape funny in any shape or form.

3 - perhaps there's a massive problem in the States/Canada, and it's not as chronic here...

4 - poetry that seems to be preaching (especially to the converted) tends to rub British audiences up the wrong way; just as poetry that seems 'light touch' doesn't do as well Stateside.

5 - I wonder if that is changing; I want to see more British slam poetry and haven't much of late.

6 - I'm glad I haven't been asked to judge a poetry slam lately. Of all the criticism slam has got - and it's had more than its fair share of criticism from stuck-in-the-box pedants - I agree that the idea of scoring somebody's trauma is an uncomfortable one. Of the dozen or so rape poems I've heard, two of them were appalling. As in appallingly-badly written. But to mark it down is to almost devalue the experience.

(Conversely, I also heard an above-average attempt at humour, which was a decently-written poem - and one of the most Islamophobic, sexist things I've ever heard... One judge gave it a 4! I would have given it a big fat 0)

7 - I wonder whether writing a poem about rape will stop people actually raping and I wonder whether more poetry should be taken out of the cosy cafes, clubs and bars they're used to, where people will always clap or click and agree, and into more places where it does actually challenge current ideas.

8 - I wonder if other people agree

(to be continued)


Postcard from Home: Brill!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Why you might want to head to Kings Cross today... (plus 30/30 - Day 4)

Utter! Mini-fringe begins in an hour's time. Check this link here...

Come and go as you please (but please come along... the more the merrier!)

Sorry, I posted an earlier version of this post without the actual poem below... I was hurrying off to a gig, what can I say!

The prompt for today is the lune, a Western variation of the haiku with the NaPoWriMo version developed by Jack Collum. Bearing in mind the smog here, and that traditional haiku generally have something to do with season changes, I've written my own:

Searching for antihistamines
Bathroom cupboard springs wide open:
Spring cleaning starts

Thursday, 3 April 2014

30/30 - Day 3

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt was to write a "charm" poem (you know, those things that ward against evil). It has to have a simple rhyme scheme/ recipe quality. I haven't deliberately used end rhyme in a poem for a really long time. I've found this difficult! And I'm now on my way to Stand Up! And Slam (and I really need to practice a little for my show on Sunday) so I won't be tempted to work on this one any more till I've got through all of this month's work.

Anyway, I've just written a charm against ignorance...

Two pinches of sodium chloride, evenly spread
Over the ashes of what yesterday’s headlines said
Another pinch to filter down strong opinion
(Failing that, a sizeable sheet of aluminium
To boost the signal beyond the isolating mist
That threatens to block the channel in which we exist)
Insert a liberal dose into the ear canal
Apply some earth (a suggestion of something banal)
Allow time for ear to stretch over the mouth and throat
So the naked tongue no longer leaves without its coat.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Day 2 - 30/30

So I decided at the last minute to kind of take part in NaPoWriMo - as if I don't already have enough to do right now... So, whatever I write will be ultra-shaky as I'm only giving myself ten minutes to write at a time. It's a good discipline and I might come up with a couple of decent poems at the end.

Yesterday's poem was written yesterday - but it's one I won't share, partly because it's going to a magazine in a couple of months (Is that cheating? Hope that's not cheating... In case it is, I'll do another one for Day 1 if I have time).

 Today's prompt, from the site, was to look at a non-greco/Roman myth. I've always been interested in the link between African-Caribbean folklores and that was the starting point. It's funny how a lot of tales have mysterious women who lure people to their deaths. I grew up hearing talk of the Jamaican River Mumma, and was intrigued by La Ciguapa in the Dominican Republic. The first definitely has its origins in African folklore, but the second has very disputed origins. What I started hasn't been refined - and the ending isn't great - but it's 2 mins to 12 and I have to work tomorrow!


Yeah, I think I seen you in another tale;
maybe your hair was more picky there

or your feet were fins or ran backward
through woods; that’s right, the hunter

trick – stare long enough into your eyes
and death gone come knocking my door.

Yeah, I done seen you before in another life;
maybe you was a stillborn mother or an un-

buried navel string, tying up the synthetic
weave that history provides. Your disguise:

a saint, a holy mother, a recipe, a cobweb,
a drop of blood over the Atlantic ocean.  


UPCOMING... (Including UTTER! Fringe & last chance to see my Edinburgh show on Sunday!)

Thursday (tomorrow):

Stand Up! and Slam

- Knock knock! 
- Who's there?

Sorry, I mean a group of poets walk and a team of comedians walk into a bar in Shoreditch. A member of the audience measures the applause after the stand-ups do their thing and the poets do their thing. And then the curtains are drawn (after the poets inevitably win) and we all go home sated after a good dose of poetry.

This time round it's Tim Wells and Richard Tyrone Jones repping the poetry side with me and, of course, team captain/ event co-host Dan Simpson. More details to be found here.
Hosts Paul Sweeney and Dan Simpson
Last time round, at their one-off fundraiser, I wrote a poem for Paul's moustache while waiting to perform. Here's an extract:

Paul's moustache deserves a poem [...]Or at least a holiday away from his faceLet's face it - it deserves [...] another homeWith someone who loves it dearlyClearly it could also use a makeoverOr a takeover by aliensOr simply a Mediterranean dietA dash of olive oilA lunchtime carafe of vino rosso....

Rrrantory Little Stories, Richmond

Host Paul Eccentric

Friday, and I return to the Tea Box in Richmond for Rrrantory Little Stories with the Rrrants crew. Cosy, warm environment with plenty of storytelling going on with funny woman Cecilia Delatori. I still don't know what I'll be reading so there may be some surprises. Make it if you can!

Sunday (April 6):

 Identity Mix Up @ UTTER! 10th Birthday Mini-fringe 


I'm so looking forward to resurrecting my show, Identity Mix-Up, at the Star of Kings in King's Cross. I'm starting to go over it again and I'm excited/nervous/getting geared up to perform. Tickets are available here.

Reasons to go to the Utter! Mini-fringe are in detail here - there are four very good ones listed on James McKay's website, so even if you don't come for my show at 8.30pm, there are plenty of others to stay for (and a come-and-go as you please policy once you have tickets).

Next Friday (April 11):
Refugee Radio on Tour
Sofia Buchuck

Brighton will be calling next week... As part of the In Protest tour. More details to come.

5. And then... rest! 

Away after the 11th and only one more gig in April before a couple of gigs in May and a probable break till July while I work on some other projects... including:

*Fingers crossed, returning to Washington, D.C. for Capturing Fire in June


*BIG NEWS* - I should have a twenty-poem pamphlet published later this year/ beginning of next year with Eyewear Publishing's new series 20/20.

And another one (tbc) out next year... full details when I'm able to release them :)

I'll keep you posted on the progress...